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Herring fleet could see record harvest in 2012

An early number outlining how much herring the commercial seine fleet can catch is nearly 10,000 tons over last year’s amount.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game today announced a preliminary guideline harvest level, or GHL of 29,008 tons for the 2012 Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery. The competitive and lucrative fishery takes place in the spring.

Last year’s GHL was 19,430 tons. The forecast amount for this year is based on predictions that show a large mass of mature herring returning in the upcoming season. The forecasting model uses abundance and age composition data from surveys conducted after last year’s spring fishery, along with data stretching back several years.

Last year, ADF&G documented more than 78 nautical miles of spawn in the Sitka Sound area.

The amount of herring harvested by the commercial fleet has been a source of concern for the Sitka Tribe of Alaska. Southeast Natives use herring roe harvested on hemlock branches as a traditional food.

ADF&G says winter test fisheries will take place in January, and a final forecast will be announced in late February.

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