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Tribe continues to express grave concerns overmanagement of the Sitka Sound Sac Roe Fishery


May 01, 2012

(SitNews) Sitka, Alaska - For many years the Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) said they have expressed grave concerns over the management of the Sitka Sound Sac Roe Fishery and its impact on the resource, the ecosystem and the subsistence harvest. The Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) said this year’s dismal return of herring to spawn in the Sound proves their concerns were well founded.

Representing more than 4,000 Tribal Citizens, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) said they have repeatedly questioned the accuracy of the outdated Age Structural Analyses (ASA) model used by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) to estimate the biomass of the Sitka Sound herring stock. The Sitka Tribe of Alaska said the liberal post season estimate by fishery managers of 94,000 tons of spawning biomass is significantly short of the 144,000 tons predicted by the model.

The gross failure of the Age Structural Analyses (ASA) model to accurately predict Sitka Sound’s herring biomass combined with the inability of fishery managers to recognize this failure in-season may have significantly compromised the health of this stock said the Sitka Tribe of Alaska in a news release. Quoting the news release, the only factor preventing Alaska Department of Fish and Game and commercial fishers from harvesting the flawed 2012 GHL of 57,658,000 pounds was the lack of processing capacity which slowed the fishery.

In a recent news interview a local Sitka ADF&G manager mentioned that the Age Structural Analyses (ASA) model cannot “forecast surprises” like this last year’s low numbers of returning herring. If the ASA model is flawed and fishery managers are unable to accurately access the in-season biomass to adjust the harvest, then why is the State risking irreparable harm to the underpinnings of the entire marine ecosystem?

According to the Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA), failure to locate a consistent harvestable biomass for commercial openings along with the lack of adequate miles of spawn should have led managers to question the validity of the preseason biomass estimates. Yet, managers continued to look for a commercially viable mass of herring for additional commercial openings well into the subsistence harvest season. A recent poll of available subsistence harvesters showed that even after an extensive effort to harvest herring eggs, three quarters of those polled did not have their needs met. Quoting the news release, those numbers are significantly compounded when extrapolated to the local and southeast subsistence users that were depending on those harvesters to meet their needs. ADF&G’s inability to manage herring stocks throughout Southeast Alaska has led to a failure by the State of Alaska to provide for a subsistence priority as specified under [AS 16.05.258 (b)].

Over the years, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) said they have submitted numerous Board of Fish (BoF) proposals aimed at forcing the fishery to be managed more conservatively and to protect subsistence interests. The STA said the Board of Fish process has favored the powerful and influential commercial sein fishing industry over the resource and other user groups.

The Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) is hopeful that this year’s disastrous return of herring to Sitka Sound will be a wakeup call to the trollers, longliners, sport fishers, subsistence harvesters, wildlife viewers, conservation groups, and local, state, and federal governments that immediate management changes have to happen to protect this invaluable ecosystem and cultural keystone species.

Fish & Game management biologist Dave Gordon told KCAW, we’re well below the forecast, but the harvest itself is within the 20 percent harvest rate, which is important to us, to stay below that 20 percent, and certainly important to industry that we did not exceed that 20 percent harvest rate. Gordon said his team tries to manage the fishery conservatively, and that they feel like they have.

The Sitka Tribe of Alaska is the federally recognized government of more than 4,000 Tribal Citizens who are primarily of Tlingit, Haida, Aleut and Tsimpsian heritage in Sheet'-Ka area of Southeastern Alaska.


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews



Source of News: 

Sitka Tribe of Alaska
Tribal Government for Sitka, Alaska


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