Forecasts on the eve of harvest time are pointing toward another very healthy year for the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery, which in 2012 had a yield of 13,534 tons valued in excess of $8.5 million.
More aerial and vessel surveys were planned for today.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game put the fishery on two-hour notice effective at 11 a.m. on March 25. There was no fishery on March 26, but a vessel survey was conducted, covering areas north of Sitka, and island passes south of Middle Island. State biologists said a very large body of herring was seen west of Bieli Rock along with a number of large schools seen offshore southeast of Inner Point. Scattered schools were also seen in shallower waters in the Crow Pass area, within the smaller islands south of Middle Island, and around the south and west sides of Kasiana Island. No herring or spawn was seen during the aerial survey.
The 48 permit holders were paid $630 a ton, which worked out to $0.315 a pound.
When the fishery begins depends on when the eggs are mature and then the fishery then lasts five to six days, said Dave Gordon, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game area management biologist for the sac roe herring fishery in Sitka.
All of the harvest goes to Japan.
The final guideline harvest level for the 2013 Sitka Sound herring sac roe fishery was set March 18 at 11,549 tons, which was approximately 500 tons greater than the preliminary guidelines harvest level announced back in December.
The adjustment was based on the winter test fishery sample results showing generally larger average weights-at-age this winter, compared to 2012, state fisheries biologists said.
Every year is a little different regarding the start of the season, Gordon said, and notes that the last three years, it’s been more toward the end of March or early April.
Most of the harvest is processed in Sitka by Silver Bay Seafoods, Sitka Sound Seafoods and the Seafood Producers Cooperative.