Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Togiak Herring Allocation Declines

Harvest allocations for Alaska’s 2017 Togiak herring fishery total 22,943 tons, down from 28,782 tons in 2016, with state biologists, erring on the side of caution for lack of funds, collecting information on estimated biomass and age composition.

The allocation includes 16,060 tons, or 70 percent, for the purse seine fleet, and 6,883 tons, or 30 percent, for the gillnet harvesters.

For 2016, the Togiak District sac roe fishery allocation of 28,782 tons included 20,148 tons for the purse seine fleet and 8,635 tons for the gillnetters.

Traditionally the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has used an age structured assessment model to forecast the spawning biomass of Togiak herring, but with the state in a budget crisis due to a drop in oil prices, no funds were allocated to gather this information for the Togiak herring fishery.

The age structured assessment model requires estimates of the spawning biomass as well as estimates of the age composition of the spawning biomass and the harvest. Because that data is not available, fisheries biologists opted to forecast the 2017 biomass as the average spawning biomass for all years for which they did have data, from 1978 through 2015, less 10 percent in order to be conservative.

Because they do not have the age structured assessment model for the 2017 forecast, biologists issued no predictions regarding age composition or individual size of herring for 2017.

As the department ceased estimating the spawning biomass of Togiak herring in 2015, the historical average used in the 2017 forecast is a static number and unless the budget situation changes, ADF&G will not be able to estimate spawning biomass or age composition in the future, said Greg Buck, area research biologist. This forecast strategy should be viewed as a temporary measure until a more long-term strategy for this fishery can be developed, Buck said in an announcement Oct. 3.

The Togiak herring fishery is the largest in Alaska. From 1995 to 2014, sac roe harvests averaged 21,672 short tons, worth an average of $4.94 million annually, according to the ADF&G 2015 Bristol Bay area annual management report released in April 2016. Given the volatile nature of the herring sac roe market, historic harvests and value are of limited utility when contemplating future harvest or value, biologists noted in the management report.

In 2015, sac roe harvests brought $1.08 million to permit holders, well below the 10-year average of $2.86 million. This value represents the grounds price and doesn’t necessarily include postseason adjustments. No spawn-on-kelp fishery has occurred since 2003. Final harvest values for the 2016 were not yet available.

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