Fish & Game Sums Up 2020 Herring Returns

Sentinel Staff Writer

“Exceptional” herring spawn deposition; 55.8 nautical miles of spawn; and evidence of a strong class of herring from 2016 were among the conclusions the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reported about this year’s herring returns in Sitka Sound.

With a forecast of smaller fish on average, no fishery was held this year.

“Processors indicated that herring of this size would be below market requirements and because of this they intended to not purchase herring in 2020,” said Aaron Dupuis, Fish and Game area management biologist.

But the department collected data throughout the season as usual, and has released a report on this year’s findings.

“Observed egg deposition was very high throughout most of Sitka Sound,” said Dupuis in his announcement. “The spawn deposition that occurred along the Kruzof Island shoreline was exceptional due to high egg density coupled with a wide spawning area.”

This year’s Guideline Harvest Level was 25,824 tons, among the highest in the 40-year history of the sac roe fishery. Some 83 percent of this year’s stock was expected to be age 4 herring, with an average weight of 92 grams. The average weight across all age classes was expected to be 97 grams.

Companies that usually participate in the fishery told Fish and Game prior to the season that they didn’t plan to participate, citing market disruption due to COVID-19, and the lack of a market for smaller fish. 

It was the second year in a row without the commercial fishery. Last year the problem was locating schools of marketable fish in an area suitable for a seine opening.

Dupuis said today that collecting data is still important, in order to have “continuity for a long-term data set of observations.”

He and fisheries technicians logged a total of 58.5 nautical miles of spawn observed from March 25 through April 20, slightly up from the 55.8 nmi mapped in 2019, but less than the 20-year average of 59.5 nmi. 

“Herring were sampled throughout the spawning period to determine age and size composition of the spawning stock and will be analyzed in coming months,” Dupuis said. “Final results from this year’s stock assessment will not be available until late 2020.”

But he noted the high recruitment of age 3 herring in Sitka, Craig, Prince William Sound and Kodiak “indicated a highly successful 2016 brood stock year across the Gulf of Alaska.”

“Preliminary results from 2020 confirm the strength of the 2016 year class and are consistent with expectations of stock growth as the year class matures,” Dupuis said.

In other observations from this year in Sitka Sound, Dupuis said the first herring spawn started on southern Kruzof between Shoals Point and Lava Island, which lasted for several days.

The spawn expanded into other areas, including western Kruzof south of Shelikof Bay, Eastern and Promisla bays, Hayward Strait, Magoun Islands, Middle and Crow Islands, Kasiana Island, Apple Island, Whiting Harbor, Katlian Bay, and from Starrigavan Bay to the Eliason Harbor breakwater.

South of Sitka, he said, spawn was observed near Indian River, Jamestown Bay, Galankin and Whale islands, from Cape Burunof to Redoubt Bay, and near West Crawfish Inlet.

Spawn deposition dive surveys were conducted April 4 through 9.

New this year was an online interactive herring spawn map.

Dupuis said today he and other department employees received positive reviews and good feedback on the program.

“Hopefully it will help people be engaged with future herring fisheries,” he said. “They’ll be able to get more timely data to be successful in the subsistence fishery.”

Biologists and technicians making herring survey flights over Sitka Sound recorded observations on iPads, Information and photos were made available to the public on the Fish and Game web site.

“We talked to some people who used it and appreciated it for subsistence,” Dupuis said today.

He just finished his first season as area management biologist, and said it was what he hoped it would be.

“I love it, it’s a lot of fun – it’s the best time of the year, and the coolest thing I’ve been involved with in my fisheries career,” Dupuis said.

It will be months before preliminary forecasts for 2021 are available, but Dupuis said, “I know there’s going to be a lot of herring next year.”





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At a Glance

(updated 1-12-22)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:55 am Wednesday.

New cases as of Friday: 2,512

Total statewide – 172,329

Total (cumulative) deaths – 955

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 3,337

Current Hospitalizations – 103

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The COVID alert rate for Sitka is “high,” based on 153 new COVID cases in the past 7 days. Case statistics are as of Sunday.

New cases in Sitka – 34

Cases in last 7 days – 153

Cumulative Sitka cases – 1,531

Deceased (cumulative) – 6

The local case data are from the City of Sitka website.





January 2002

Classified ads, Rentals: 3-bdrm. house on the beach. $900; 3-bdrm duplex, washer/dryer $945; Great downtown house, 2 bdrms., 2 baths, furnished,
W/D, hardwood floors $850; 2-bdrm. roomy apartment $945..


January 1972

The City and Borough Assembly Tuesday approved an ordinance establishing a transportation committee to advise the assembly and promote transportation services for the municipality. Members are Cecil McClain, Ray Mabey, Clarence Kramer,
Dick Cushing and Burt Hansen.