At ‘Herring Camp,’ an advocate passes down subsistence traditions

Apr 13, 2021

The beginning of the herring spawn in Sitka Sound signals the wind-down of commercial fishing, and the start of the subsistence harvest: The millennia-old tradition of submerging hemlock branches along the shoreline, and waiting for herring to coat them in a thick layer of eggs.

As spring returns to Bristol Bay, so too do Togiak  herring.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game projects a biomass of 236,700 tons — the highest forecast since 1993, when the state started to use its current forecasting method.

Researcher examines future effects of climate change on Sitka’s herring

Jul 31, 2020

Predicting the future is hard, unless you’ve got a crystal ball. In the basement of the Sitka Sound Science Center, a researcher has designed an experiment to study the future of ocean acidification, and her “crystal ball” is herring. Doctoral researcher Lauren Bell explores possible futures for our oceans, and one of its most important resources

After two seasons without a commercial fishery, herring stocks in Sitka Sound are on the rebound, according to state scientists tracking the data. But subsistence users are skeptical: What herring there are in the Sound seem to be both thinly distributed and moving farther out of reach, suggesting that stocks remain stressed.

The tribal lawsuit over herring in Sitka Sound boiled down to one question this week: Does the management of the commercial seine fishery still allow residents a “reasonable opportunity” to harvest enough spawn for subsistence?

A new study reveals previously unaccounted for economic and cultural benefits of herring. The extensive report also highlights threats posed by the current state management plan to the subsistence herring roe fishery in Sitka Sound.

Tom Thornton, a dean and vice provost at the University of Alaska Southeast, authored the study, which was designed and funded by the Sealaska Heritage Institute.

In kelp forests, scientists seek climate change refuge for herring roe

Apr 19, 2019

Aerial surveys of Sitka Sound showed a lot of active herring spawn this week, stretching over 31 nautical miles to date. But that wasn’t the only place to find roe. In the basement of the Sitka Sound Science Center  researchers are incubating thousands of herring eggs to determine the effects of warming ocean temperatures and ocean acidification on the species — now and in the future. 

After a court ruling that the Department of Interior (DOI) improperly excluded Alaska tribes from a process long available to lower 48 tribes, DOI announced a proposal that would allow it to accept Alaska tribal lands into trust. Although any action is years in the future, the change would provide certain protections to those lands.

A study on the depletion of herring in Southeast Alaska is prompting discussions on whether and how it may be possible to replenish their numbers.

The herring fish roe fishery opened in Bristol Bay Sunday.

Even though recent inspections showed no problems, the Skagway ferry dock sank last week, leaving the small Southeast Alaska town without ferry service for two weeks while state officials try to figure out what happened.