ADF&G: Sitka Sound herring sac roe harvest was largest in history

State biologists say the preliminary 2022 Sitka commercial herring sac roe harvest with an average mature roe percentage of 11.9% was the largest in the history of this sac roe fishery, accounting for 56% of the 2022 guideline harvest level of 45,164 tons.

The fishery was open for 15 days between March 26 and April 10, with an average daily harvest of some 1,700 tons of herring.  The fishery was closed following the April 10 fishing period after active herring spawn was observed in the Windy Passage area of Sitka Sound. The presence of active herring spawning in close proximity to where the fishery was occurring at that time increased the likelihood that future harvest opportunities would not provide for high-quality sac roe and would also increase the likelihood of sets being released due to poor quality herring. Landings were made by 28 of the 47 active permit holders for this fishery.

A diesel fuel spill by a grounded vessel in Neva Strat that spilled an estimated 5,300-gallons of diesel fuel earlier in March prompted the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to close the fishery in portions of Salisbury Sound Neva Strait, Olga Strat and the Krestof Sound.

In addition, the Alaska Departments of Fish and Game, Health and Social Services, and Environmental Conservation strongly advised against the harvest for consumption of any herring, herring roe, kelp/algae or shellfish from this area.

State fisheries officials said that this year substantially more eggs were observed along the northern and eastern areas of Sitka Sound than along the Kruzof Island shoreline, which is a shift from what has been observed over the past few years. Egg deposition south of Sitka was low to moderate. Herring were sampled (using cast nets) throughout the spawning period to determine age, sex, and size composition of the spawning stock and samples were taken from the commercial harvest across fishery openings. Sampled herring will be analyzed in coming months.

Final results from this year’s stock assessment and the 2023 forecast will not be available until late 2022 or early 2023.