Kodiak’s herring season, which began on April 15, is much different than any other Alaska region. Whereas fisheries at places like Sitka Sound and Togiak can wrap up after a few short openers, Kodiak’s herring openers can occur at up to 80 different places around the Island and last into June. This year’s herring stock is strong but made up of mostly smaller, 3-5 year old fish. That prompted managers to reduce the harvest slightly to 1,645 tons.

Togiak in Bristol Bay is Alaska’s biggest roe herring fishery and all signs point to it kicking will kicking off at the traditional time in early May. Last year the fish showed up the earliest ever in mid-April catching fishermen, processors and managers off guard.  Budget cuts had processors pitching in for aerial surveys and precluded any stock sampling.   This year, a $61,000 budget boost will help get herring monitoring back on track.

 “That’s going to give us money to do aerial surveys and money to do the sampling we need to build our model – in order for that model to work you need to have information on the age and size of the fish that are harvested.”

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Tim Sands is area manager at Fish and Game in Dillingham. This year’s harvest of 23,000 tons is down by more than 10 percent due in great part to no fish sampling.

“Without the information can’t forecast the next year’s return. Have to be much more conservative. That’s reflected in this year’s harvest level of 23,000 tons – had no data to work on.”

Participation and price at Togiak are on an upswing and four buyers are expected.

“It looks like we’re going to have 19 seine boats and 16 gillnetters. Last year only had 3 gillnetters. I’m hearing rumors of $100-$150 a ton so the price is back up and that’s bringing gillnetters back into the fishery. “

Further west, a lack of buyers has kept herring boats beached for about a decade. Nearly 12,000 tons could be taken from fisheries from Security Cove to Norton Sound if there was a market.

Statewide, Alaska will produce less than 40,000 tons of herring this year. The females  are valued for their roe in Asia; the males are typically ground up for meal or dumped. Last year the average price for roe herring was just 11 cents a pound. In Norway, where herring is smoked, pickled and canned, fisheries fetch more than $1.40 a pound.

Thanks to the assist from KDLG/Dillingham.

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