Thursday, March 17, 2011

On watch in Sitka

All hands are waiting for herring in Sitka Sound.

When they show, we're likely to see another huge harvest of the little fish, prized for their eggs or roe.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has started aerial surveys to look for herring. None were seen yesterday, but another flyover is set for Friday.

The biologists look not only for the fish, but for sea lions gathering to gorge on silvery treats.

The 49 seine boats participating in last year's sac roe herring fishery were able to take a huge harvest, 17,874 tons, thanks to the amazing strength of the stock in recent years.

The quota for this season is 19,490 tons.

The Sitka fishery does not open on a set date. Rather, fishery managers wait until the fish are aggregated and ripe with roe before firing the starting gun.

At that point, look out for a hull-grinding competition.

We're likely several days away from the first opener. Last year's fishery started on March 24.

So what will we see this season?

Boats banging like stock cars, the way they did at times a year ago?

Or monster catches worth half a million dollars, like in 2007?

A major uncertainty this year is the traditional market for Sitka herring roe — Japan. That country obviously is still reeling from the recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

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