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Alaskan gillneter offloading herring. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

No signs of herring seen in Togiak

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Thursday, April 24, 2014, 04:00 (GMT + 9)

The first aerial survey of the Togiak District conducted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) this week finished without spotting herring schools in the fishery.

This survey, which included an area as far as Tongue Point and the tip of Hagemeister Island, revealed that despite the poor visibility in the water due to turbidity, it was possible to find out the lack of fish, grey whales or sea lions.

However, fish were seen in the shallows of Togiak Bay, where the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA) sea surface temperature map indicates the temperature is in the 1 degree Celsius range.

Besides, the ADFG tracks southeast Bering Sea surface temperatures and sea ice trends to predict when the maturing herring will head for their spawning grounds.

“Our model, which came out mid-March with the outlook, predicted a first harvest of 10 May,” said Matt Jones, an assistant area management biologist for the Nushagak and Togiak commercial fishing districts.

Jones said there is always a lot of speculation as to whether the herring season will be early or late, and perhaps more speculation this year following the mild winter.

“A lot of us believe the first harvest will be a little before 10 May, but we’re sticking with that model,” Jones added.

As of 15 April, the ADFG estimates a daily processing capacity of a little under 3,000 tonnes of herring, but Jones said that could change.

According to the biologist, the forecast biomass of the Togiak herring run in 2014 is 157,448 tonnes, representing 7 per cent less than last year but roughly 20 per cent above the ten-year average. The management plan allows for a total allowable harvest of 31,490 tonnes, or 20 per cent of the biomass.

The harvest quotas are allocated in the following way:

  • Togiak Spawn-on-Kelp Fishery (fixed): 1,500 tonnes;
  • Dutch Harbor Food/Bait allocation: 2,099 tonnes;
  • Purse Seine (70 per cent allocation): 19,523 tonnes ;
  • Gill net (30 per cent allocation): 8,367 tonnes.

Furthermore, the news site Seafoodnews.com reported last week that the oversupply of herring in the market is depressing the price, so the final prices are expected to be lower than those last year. 

The Fish and Game Department announced that weather permitting, the district is to be surveyed again on Friday, 25 April.
 


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Photo Courtesy of FIS Member  NOAA/NMFSborrar
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