SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Southeast Alaska Herring Stocks
By Andy Rauwolf


December 05, 2008

Dear Readers

The National Marine Fisheries Service recently posted a request for comments in regard to the listing of Southeast Alaska Herring Stocks as threatened or endangered. The deadline for comments is this coming Monday, December 8th. Your voices need to be heard.

You can e-mail your comments to or call (907)586-7312. Following is a copy of the response from Ketchikan Area Herring Action Committee. We hope you will take a moment and support our response to this critical issue.

Andy Rauwolf
Ketchikan, AK

Received December 04, 2008 - Published December 05, 2008


Phone: (907) 225-3697
Fax: (907)247-3697


Kaja Brix: Asst. Regional Administrator, Protected Resources Division
Alaska Region, NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian
P.O. Box 21668
Juneau, Alaska 99802
Fax: (907) 586-7557

Subject: SE AK Herring

Dear Kaja,

The Ketchikan Herring Action Committee (formerly the Ketchikan Herring Coalition), is an informal organization made up of several hundred long time residents of Southeast Alaska who, since the late 1970s, have been watching with increasing concern the steady decline of our herring stocks, and the way that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have miss-managed them.

Today there are countless bays and inlets that once teemed with herring that now resemble aquatic desserts, devoid of the abundance of fish that once filled them. The changes have been so subtle over time, that if you were not here 20 or 30 years ago, you wouldn't know the difference.

Those of us who are witness to this genocide have made countless efforts to address this issue with the ADF&G and with the Board of Fish. At every meeting our concerns have been rebuffed, and every conservative management proposal submitted to the Board has been rejected. Witnesses are helpless against a very powerful commercial lobby.

If you are looking for information on historic stock levels of herring, you should be holding town hall meetings throughout Southeast Alaska, so that these people can have a voice and be heard. Sadly, some of these voices have already fallen silent. Soon there will be no one left to attest to the rich marine ecosystem that once encompassed all of Southeast Alaska.

No one in Alaska has ever witnessed the enormous decline in both abundance and age/weight composition of both halibut and King salmon that we are seeing today. The combination of the two problems, in consecutive years, is a clear indication of a lack of forage, and both of these species depend heavily on herring. This in itself is witness that we are in serious trouble, and cannot wait for a total collapse in order to take proactive measures to protect the resources.

In the early 1990s, we gathered affidavits from several dozen long time residents, and to our knowledge that is the only such evidence that exists. In 2005, we documented an expose on the Kah Shakes herring fishery which is attached to this letter. In order to get a handle on what has been going on, please take the time to read it. At about the same time, we also noticed a much larger impact on herring by the predation of marine mammals.

Your own data shows that since implementation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, there has been a huge increase in the abundance of Humpback whales in Southeast Alaska. With a consumption rate of up to 5,500 lbs. per day per adult Humpback, it doesn't take long for a few of these animals to decimate a biomass of herring. We witnessed this in 2004. In spite of written protests from hundreds of local citizens in Ketchikan who were observing approximately 13 Humpbacks feeding on herring in West Behm Canal, ADF&G was poised to open a herring fishery and had the fishing fleet on short notice. Only last minute action taken by Governor Murkowski prevented this catastrophe. ADF&G was forecasting a 12,000 ton spawning biomass. As it turned out, only 600 tons of herring survived to spawn in West Behm Canal.

Currently the department is monitoring this stock, waiting for it to rebuild to a level that they can harvest, hopefully before the whales move back in and beat them to it. Is this what we are supposed to believe is conservative ecosystem management? Who has priority when it comes to herring? Should it be the salmon, halibut, whales, and other species that depend heavily on them, or should it continue to be a handful of herring fishermen with very strong lobbyists, who wantonly disregard the resources and everyone else who depend on them?

We ask that you seriously consider this information, and the dire consequences of not protecting the remnants of Southeast Alaska's herring stocks.

Respectfully Submitted,
Andy Rauwolf, Snapper Carson, John Harrington; Directors
Ketchikan Area Herring Action Committee



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