Friday, May 7, 2010

On watch at Togiak

Historically, Alaska's biggest herring sac roe fishery by volume has been in Bristol Bay, near the remote village of Togiak.

We're only a few days away from the season opener there, and biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are on the lookout for sea lions and other signs that the herring have arrived for the spawn.

Here's the department's latest update.

This fishery used to be crazy competitive, not unlike the wild derby we just witnessed at Sitka. Alas, Togiak has become a yawner since the roe market collapsed in Japan, with the number of participating boats and processors falling way off.

On the upside, Togiak offers herring aplenty. This year's harvest quota is huge at 25,905 tons. It's so big, in fact, that the industry is likely to leave a big chunk of the quota in the water.

Last year's catch of 17,107 tons on a quota of 21,260 tons paid fishermen $2.6 million. That's a pretty humble payoff for a fishery that 15 years ago was worth nearly $17 million.

So, when will the fishery open at Togiak?

Last year, seiners and gillnetters got started on May 16.

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