The Sitka Fish and Game Advisory Committee is calling for more funding for ADF&G staff to improve the department’s herring research. 

The Sitka AC has spent five meetings and 16 hours addressing southeast herring proposals that will be reviewed by the Alaska Board of Fisheries this January. During those meetings, the AC learned that the state’s model for managing the Sitka Sound Sac Roe Herring Fishery incorporates data that was collected more than two decades ago. And while the data needs to be updated, the department doesn’t have the staff to undertake it. 

In the letter the AC specifically mentions a study reevaluating the fishery that was conducted in 1998. Data collected during that study includes the most recent survey of unfished biomass. When the AC asked for updated data on the unfished biomass at a meeting in November, ADF&G Biologist Sherri Dressel said the department couldn’t provide it. 

“The last one was–the analysis was done in 1998,” Dressel said. “And we had been working on it. We then lost our staff person and we at this point, have not gotten a staff person back. So being short staffed. We have not completed that since the last Board of Fish.

In its letter to the Board of Fisheries, the AC commends the work ADF&G staff do to manage the fishery, but without more staffing and updated data, the committee believes that state biologists’ ability to provide the ‘best available science’ is limited. 

“This creates doubt in the accuracy of the data along with the model and associated threshold levels, as well as the whole overall herring harvest strategy,” the letter states. “These concerns only degrade public trust and threaten the integrity of the entire process.”

The AC writes that the overall herring harvest strategy must be recalibrated to reflect changing conditions in the ocean ecosystem that have been occurring for the last two decades.