The Alaska Department of Fish and Game began conducting aerial surveys of Sitka Sound today (Tuesday 3-12-19), in preparation for the 2019 Sitka Sac Roe Herring Fishery. According to Eric Coonradt, area management biologist for ADF&G, no herring were seen in this first flight over the Sound and no herring spawn was observed.
On March 11, a sonar survey on the north end of Sitka Sound showed schools of herring from north of Old Sitka Rocks to Lisianski Point.
Coonradt said their findings were similar to last year, with the addition of a few extra predators.
“Everything that we saw tracked very similarly to last year. We did see some sea lions and whales at the north end of the road system, near the Starrigavan bay area, which last year we didn’t see,” he said.
But last year was unusually quiet for seiners. The fleet agreed to a non-competitive fishery, with an unusually low guideline harvest level of 11,000 tons. This year, Coonradt said, that wouldn’t likely be the case
“This year we’re planning on a full on competitive fishery. We may not have all the permit holders here but we’ll have the vast majority of them and the complement of tenders and processors,” Coonradt said. “So we should be seeing things gearing up as the week progresses, my guess is by the end of this week, beginning of next week we’ll have almost everybody here.”
The department will give their next update on the fishery following an aerial survey on Friday, March 15.