HATS OFF – Sitka High School graduates toss their mortarboards in the air after receiving their degrees Monday night in the Sitka High gym. This year 74 seniors graduated in a ceremony that included addresses by teacher Howard Wayne and class representative Nai’a Nelson, a performance by the symphonic band and a video of graduates. A car parade was held after the ceremony. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Herring Predators Seen In First Aerial Photos

By SHANNON HAUGLAND

Sentinel Staff Writer

In the first aerial survey for the Sitka Sound herring fishery, Fish and Game area management biologist Aaron Dupuis spotted a high concentration of herring predators in shallow waters this morning between Inner Point and Hayward Strait.

Dupuis said it’s too early to say what this means to the fishery, but described his reaction as “surprised and excited.”

“It was very unusual to have fish there at this early stage,” Dupuis said. He clarified he is seeing whales and sea lions in those shallow waters, which is an indicator that herring were there.

“The predators at this time are normally in deep waters, in the trenches, down way deep,” he said. “Today they’re in the shallows off of Kruzof and what I’d expect to see in two weeks. It’s still too early to get super excited – whales could’ve broken off a school of fish and are working on them, but something could be happening and that’s what we’re going to figure out today.”

Dupuis said he and others plan to investigate at a closer level with a vessel survey this afternoon aboard the Eric C, the F&G vessel named for the late area management biologist Eric Coonradt.

Registration forms for the purse seine fishery went out today. The fishery has some four dozen permit holders but far fewer have participated in recent years. 

The survey flight conducted this morning covered the area from Biorka Island to Krestof Sound. Dupuis reported good search conditions with clear skies, light winds, and excellent visibility. 

No herring schools or spawn were observed, but predators were spotted along the Kruzof Island shoreline from Inner Point to Kamenoi Point, Guide Island, and west of the Siginaka Islands. 

The biologist said humpback whales were concentrated in the shallower waters of the Kruzof Island shoreline from Inner Point to Hayward Strait and in deeper waters west of the Siginaka Islands. And large numbers of sea lions were seen off the rockpiles between Inner Point and Rob Point.

Near Biorka Island, Dupuis said relatively few sea lions were observed hauled out on rocks.

“Predator numbers and locations are unusual for this time of year,” he said in his news release sent out this morning. “Typically, humpback whales are concentrated in the deeper waters near Bieli Rock and Vitskari Rocks and sea lions are mostly concentrated near haulouts near Biorka Island and West Crawfish Inlet.”

Dupuis said he would have more information about his observations after the vessel survey and the aerial survey on Tuesday.

Information including spawn lines and photos are available at https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=commercialbyareasoutheast.herring#map

The guideline harvest level for the 2023 sac roe herring fishery is 30,124 tons, with a forecast average weight of 134 gram-fish across all age classes. 

The 2022 guideline harvest level was 45,164 tons, of which about 25,000 tons were harvested, Dupuis said. Last year’s fishery ran March 26 to April 10.

 

 

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20 YEARS AGO

May 2004

Dr. Arthur Cleveland, a former dean at Columbus State University in Georgia, was named the new president of Sheldon Jackson College, SJC officials announced today. He will be replacing C. Carlyle Haaland, who has held the position for four years.


50 YEARS AGO

May 1974

Coaching and managing the Little League teams this year are John Abbott and John Calhoun, ANB; Dale and DeWayne Vilandre, Alaska Federal; Walt Barker, Elks; Frank Simmons and Frank Vilandre, Lions; Leo Bacon, Pat Ness, Cliff Robards and Bob Edenso, Moose; and Everett Webb, Sportsmen. Head umpire is Carl Karpstein.

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