Cora Campbell, Acting Commissioner Sue Aspelund, Acting Director

Contact: Dave Gordon Phone: (907) 747-6688 Fax: (907) 747-6693

Sitka Area Office 304 Lake Street, Room 103 Sitka, Alaska 99835 Date: December 16, 2010 Time: 10:15 a.m.

SITKA SOUND HERRING FISHERY ANNOUNCEMENT Sitka. . . The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today the guideline harvest level (GHL) for the 2011 Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery is 19,490 tons. This GHL is based on a 20% harvest rate of the forecast biomass of 97,449 tons of mature herring. The forecast indicates that the spawning stock will consist of 5% age-3, 20% age-4, 21% age-5, 26% age-6, 15% age-7, and 14% age-8 and older herring. The department normally uses an age-structure-analysis (ASA) model to estimate abundance, survival rates and maturation rates needed to forecast the biomass of mature herring expected to return to Sitka Sound the upcoming spawning season. Based on a recent review of the department’s herring scale aging methodologies, the department has discovered inconsistencies in methods in aging herring using scales. This discovery brought into question the reliability of age estimates back to 1999. The preferred ASA model requires a long time series of reliable age estimates and consequently, the department has chosen to use a biomass accounting model to forecast the 2011 Sitka Sound mature herring population. The biomass accounting model is routinely used for forecasting other Southeast Alaska herring stocks when less stock assessment information is available. The department is in the process of re-aging archived scale samples. Because of the very large numbers of scales that have to be aged, the department cannot estimate the date the aging will be completed. The intent is to complete ASA modeling for the 2012 forecast using re-aged scale data for Sitka Sound herring. The department will re-examine 2011 forecasts for Sitka Sound and other herring spawning aggregates as time permits and as re-aged scale data becomes available. Based on information and data other than aging data, it is still apparent that the Sitka Sound herring stock is at the highest levels seen since the department began monitoring the stock in 1964. Herring abundance is estimated, in part, using aerial surveys designed to map spawning locations and record the length of shoreline with spawn, followed by dive surveys which estimate the density of eggs and the average width of the spawn. In the spring of 2010, the department recorded a total of 87.7 nautical miles of herring spawn in the greater Sitka Sound area. Spawning occurred broadly throughout the northern Sitka Sound area, with significant spawning also occurring in the Dorothy Narrows area. Re-aged samples from the 2010 spawning page 1 of 2

Sitka Sound Herring

page 2 of 2

December 16, 2010

population showed 9% age-3, 21% age-4, 33% age-5, 20% age-6, 7% age-7 and 11% age-8 and older. The department will hold a stakeholders meeting in Sitka tentatively scheduled for the second week of February, with a specific date to be announced at a later time. The purpose of the meeting will be to present the data and modeling used for the forecast and to discuss management strategies for this coming season.

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