Sitka roe herring harvest for 2024 largest ever

The Sitka herring are valued only for the roe (eggs); the males are regarded as bycatch and discarded along with de-egged females. Millions of pounds of AK's herring catches are ground up and dumped every year.

by | December 23, 2023

Lack of buyers will likely bite into the fishery again

Seining for herring at Sitka Sound several years ago

The harvest guideline for the 2024 roe herring fishery at Sitka Sound is an eye-popping 81,246 tons (nearly 162.5 million pounds) when the fishery opens in late March or early April. The forecasted average weight is 120 grams across all age classes.

“This forecast is greater than any prior forecast or estimate of spawning biomass for Sitka Sound herring,” the AK Dept. of Fish and Game said in its Dec. 22 announcement. (Below)

Male herring with milt on the left; female with a skein of eggs (roe) on the right

A continued lack of buying interest in roe herring by Alaska’s one customer, Japan, will likely result in a far lower harvest, as has been the case in recent years.

The herring are valued only for their roe; the male herring are regarded as bycatch. Along with the de-egged females, millions of pounds of Alaska’s herring catches are discarded.

Last year at Sitka Sound, only a handful of the 47 permit holders harvested just under 11,000 short tons (24.2 million pounds) out of a 30,124 ton catch limit (60.25 million pounds). They reportedly received around $300 per ton for their catch.

The 2023 Sitka fishery opened on March 28 and ended on April 7.

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About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.

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