Alaska fisheries management biologists at Cordova say all commercial Pacific herring fisheries in Prince William Sound will remain closed this season, due to the estimated spawning biomass being projected below 22,000 tons.
The announcement issued includes fall food and bait, purse seine and gillnet sac roe, spawn-on-kelp in pounds, and wild spawn-on-kelp fisheries.
While age structured assessment modeling results were not yet available, observed mile-days of spawn in 2013 indicated that the pre-fishery run biomass for 2014 would likely be below the regulatory threshold in the Prince William Sound herring management plan, biologists said.
“The population right now is stable, but too low for a fishery,” said Jeremy Botz, a state management biologist at Cordova. The area’s last herring fishery was in 1999.
Hydro-acoustic surveys, net sampling, and aerial surveys were conducted in 2013 to assess herring biomass, disease prevalence, age composition and growth.
Age composition samples taken during the spring of 2013 varied by location and sample gear. Spawning fish samples from southeast Prince William Sound were predominantly made up of five age classes: age 4 (19 percent), 6 (19 percent), 7 (15 percent, 8 (20 percent), and 9 (13 percent). No collections were made from smaller spawning events in the Port Fidalgo and Montague Island areas.
Herring disease assessment was included as part of the annual age, sex and size assessment completed each spring since 1993. Disease sampling in April 2013 found no fish positive for viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus in 119 fish examined, biologists said.
Additional updates on the status of Prince William Sound herring populations is to be announced as new information becomes available, they said.