Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sitka Sac Roe Harvest Hard Hit by Rapid Spawning

Just a year ago, harvesters found an abundance of nice ripe fish for a long period of time before they spawned, and caught 20,000 tons of Sitka sac roe herring, but rapid spawning this year kept the harvest at 13,500 tons, less than half the allowable catch.

State fisheries biologist Dave Gordon at Sitka said what happened with the 2012 harvest is a common occurrence, with rapid spawning when harvesters are finally getting mature roe recovery.

When the fishery closed on April 12, the total harvest brought in by 47 participating vessels was well below the guideline harvest level of 28,829 tons.

The first opener on March 31 resulted in a harvest of 4,600 tons of sac roe herring. The second opener on April 2 yielded 5,250 tons of the fish. By this time, state fisheries biologists were aware that harvesters were going to have trouble locating fish without a lot of spawn. A third opener on April 7 brought in some 3,700 tons of fish.

“Then we surveyed and surveyed and looked for pre-spawning herring and finally concluded there wasn’t any available to keep waiting for,” Gordon said. By the evening of April 11, biologists said it was clear that the opportunity had passed and it was time to close the fishery.

The 2012 guideline harvest level was the highest ever. The previous record high guideline harvest level for the Sitka Sound sac roe herring was about 20,000 tons, and harvesters brought in 19,329 tons of fish, biologists said.

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