A record early start date for Alaska’s Togiak herring fishery has caught harvesters and processors by surprise.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game area biologist Tim Sands, in Dillingham, says they are still working to get to the grounds and are expected to be up to full speed by the weekend.
The weather, as of Tuesday was not cooperating. Sands said the Togiak herring district was hit with high winds, making it difficult to locate the herring, slowing down fishing vessels and making it difficult to set gear.
ADF&G staff flew a survey of the Togiak herring district, the largest herring fishery in the state, on April 17 and observed 37 miles of spawn, prompting a quick opening of the fishery. By and large this is a May fishery, said Sands, but even before the ADF&G survey, private pilots were reporting that they were spotting the herring spawning all over the place.
A year ago, it wasn’t until April 27 that 63,382 tons of herring was documented, exceeding the threshold biomass of 35,000 tons, and prompting the opener.
Managing the fishery is more challenging this year because of across the board state budget cuts that resulted in the budget for Togiak herring being zeroed out.
Estimates are that 20 to 25 seine vessels and three gillnet vessels will participate in this year’s fishery, delivering to Icicle Seafoods, Trident Seafoods, North Pacific Seafoods and Silver Bay Seafoods.
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