Abundance aside, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has cancelled the commercial sac roe herring fishery in Sitka for 2019 for lack of market quality fish.
In a normal 10-year average, with the majority of the herring sold into Japanese markets, the fishery is worth $5.5 million.
ADF&G fisheries biologist Eric Coonradt in Sitka said the decision was based on the fact that market quality demands were high compared to the forecast.
“The market is looking for fish better than 115 grams and 11 percent mature roe,” Coonradt said. “Our forecast was for smaller fish this year. In our test fishery program, we never found fish greater than 109 grams.”
“We test the fish and if it doesn’t meet market requirements, it doesn’t open,” he said.
The last time that happened was 1977.
“This is a sac roe fishery,” Coonradt said. “We have had some pretty tremendous recruitment events in past years. We came into the season knowing it would be hard to find fish to meet market requirements.”
The forecast for the 2019 season was for 12 percent of the run to be age three, 43 percent of the run to be age four, and 21 percent of the run to be age five, “and you don’t get into a marketable size until age six,” he said.
Fishermen from the Gulf of Alaska, as well as Washington state, are normally part of the fleet harvesting in this sac roe fishery. More than 30 permit holders did show up, which is down from the past number of participants, but the fishery never opened.