Processors, fishermen, and stakeholders in the Sitka Sac Roe herring fishery met for a pre-season meeting on Friday morning (3-19-21) to discuss the commercial fishery, which goes on two-hour notice this weekend. 

Just under 70 people attended the online meeting led by state fisheries biologists. Representatives from NOAA, the Coast Guard and the Alaska State Troopers attended to share their expectations for keeping the fishery safe and legal.  

Area management biologist Aaron Dupuis said this year would be a little different than in the past.

“With a reduced fleet size and limited tending and processing capacity, the daily harvest will likely be much lower than what has been observed in past fisheries,” he said.

Dupuis said because of the reduced fleet, fishermen would likely need more time than usual to reach their quota, which is set at 30,000 tons this year. But, he said ADF&G would base decisions about opening entirely on herring conditions. When asked if the fishery would be a co-op this year, Dupuis and management coordinator Troy Thynes said state management is treating this year as a competitive fishery, though he said fishermen and processors may work out different arrangements.

“We’re not making preference for co-ops,” Thynes said. “But if processors and fishermen or individual processors have plans worked out with the fleets or with boats that normally sell to them,  to co-op that way, from my understanding there is that sort of co-op going on with individual processors and within the fleet there. That’s why we’re expecting a limited fleet.”

Aerial surveys were conducted shortly after the meeting. According to an ADF&G press release issued on Friday afternoon, a small school of herring was observed near Bieli Rock. No herring spawn was observed, but predators were observed nearby, including several whales near Middle Island. According to the release, the number of predators observed was normal for this time of year. 

The fishery goes on two-hour notice Saturday at 8 a.m. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will broadcast fishery updates at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day over VHF Channel 10, while the fishery is on notice.