It’s the end of the week one, and seiners and tenders remain moored in Sitka’s harbors, on two-hour notice, waiting for conditions to be right for the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery to open.
As of Friday afternoon (3-22-19) ADF&G biologists have seen a lot of herring, but the roe content hasn’t hit the 11 percent maturity mark needed to make the fish marketable. Sac roe is a delicacy primarily sold in Asian markets.
As the week progressed, test sets gathered by the department showed, in most cases, increasing roe maturity. Two test sets on Thursday yielded 10 percent mature roe, up from 7 percent earlier in the week, but the third set yielded 6 percent mature roe with smaller fish.
In a message to KCAW on Friday morning, state biologist Aaron Dupuis said test results were similar to Thursday, with schools of fish from Katlian to Redoubt Bay. Fish they saw in Krestof Sound Thursday moved back into Hayward Straight, and Dupuis said they found schools near the Magoun Islands. Predators were concentrated in that area, near Bieli Rock, where hundreds of sea lions have congregated this week, and in Redoubt Bay.
In a radio update to seiners later in the day, state biologist Eric Coonradt said they’d found a good distribution of fish, and fish in the Bieli Rock area were near the surface and accessible.
But while the department found schools across a wide area, the one test set from Friday showed lower roe maturity and smaller fish than they were looking for to open the fishery. 200 tons of herring were collected near North Bieli Rocks with around 7.8 percent mature roe and an average weight of 83 grams per fish.
ADF&G will continue conducting vessel and aerial surveys each morning, until conditions are right to open the fishery.