This is Fish Radio. I’m Stephanie Mangini. Traditional herring egg harvests in Southeast. I’ll tell you more after this…
In Southeast herring, roe on branches and kelp brings excitement to locals for their subsistence harvest. A majority of harvesters are from the herring hub of Sitka Sound, but boats from Hoonah, Kake, Angoon, and other surrounding villages also come to participate.
“It is important in a cultural sense; it is the first fish coming back in the springtime, so it has a lot of symbolic significance. People look forward to getting their first taste of herring eggs.”
Lauren Still is a Subsistence Resource Specialist with Fish in Game in Juneau. She helps to weigh the eggs taken each year. Typically 40 to 100 locals participate in the subsistence fishery. They catch the roe using three different methods.
“They use either Hemlock branches or trees, that are placed in the water and herring will spawn on those, and they will be harvested. Or they will harvest it macrocystis kelp or hair seaweed.”
Small crowds gather to the dock to get their fresh eggs to share with friends and family, often taking them home in zip locks or grocery bags. They are enjoyed in a variety of ways, from fresh to boiled or fried.
“A lot of people blanch it; it can go on green salads to add an extra crunch, or made into a herring egg salad.”
Over 1,000 households use the eggs in Sitka alone. The rest of the eggs are shipped to family and friends or traded, making Sitka sac roe a widespread resource.
“About 95% of what gets harvested gets shared with family and friends throughout Sitka and Southeast and beyond. It also has a long history of being traded by those that can get herring eggs. They will trade it for things they don’t have access to like hooligan, or caribou, or goat, other resources that aren’t available in Sitka or Southeast.”