From Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, March 16, 2016
2016 TOGIAK HERRING OUTLOOK
The 2016 Togiak District herring biomass is forecast to be 162,244 tons, very similar to the recent 10 year average spawning biomass.
This forecast is based on an age-structured analysis (ASA) model that has been used since 1993. Herring age’s 4–8 are expected to comprise 44% of the projected biomass, ages 9–11 are expected to make up 48% while the remaining 8% will be age 12+ fish. Average weight for age–7 and older herring should exceed 300 grams. The forecasted individual average weight of herring in the harvested biomass is 350 grams.
The commercial fishery and spawn timing is largely related to water temperatures experienced by herring on the spawning grounds. Additional factors related to timing include sea surface temperature and sea ice trends across the southeastern Bering Sea in the weeks prior to spawning. We track the average sea surface temperature and Bering Sea ice coverage in February and March, as we consider these variables a useful index of timing for maturing herring ultimately bound for spawning grounds in and around the Togiak District.
Currently sea surface temperatures are much higher than we would expect at this time of year and the region of the Bering Sea that we believe has predictive power is ice free. Currently these conditions are so far from normal, we have little confidence in our ability to accurately forecast timing this year.
The Bristol Bay Herring Management Plan (5 AAC 27.865) sets a maximum 20% exploitation rate for the Togiak District stock. Based on the forecast of 162,244 tons, 32,449 tons of herring will be available for harvest in 2016.
Harvest allocation, in accordance with the management plan will be: Fishery Harvest Allocation Spawn-on-Kelp 1,500 tons Dutch Harbor Food and Bait 2,166 tons Togiak Sac Roe 28,782 tons Purse Seine (70%) 20,148 tons Gillnet (30%) 8,635 tons.
The management strategy for the Togiak herring fishery is designed to provide for maximum sustained yield while affording the greatest economic benefit. In 2016, sac roe fisheries will again be managed to maximize product quality through long openings which allow permit holders to make smaller sets and harvest the highest quality fish.
Long openings also allow processors to have flexible control of harvest volume so that holding time between harvest and processing is optimal. Based on a preseason poll processing capacity is expected to be approximately 2,330 tons per day. This represents a 5% increase from the 2015 daily capacity of 2,200 tons per day.
The preseason poll also indicates that 3 processors will participate in the Togiak sac roe herring fishery with a fleet size of 3 gillnet and 21 purse seine vessels.
For the last decade, the department has opened the herring fishery as soon as threshold biomass has been documented and anticipates using this strategy again in 2016 to maximize fishing time. The department believes this strategy allows individual companies to maximize their processing capacity and decide what quality is suitable for their individual market.
For at least the last decade, the seine fishery has operated as individual processor controlled fleets. Indications are that this will be the case again in 2016 and therefore, fishing time and area will be very liberal. This should allow purse seine vessels to locate high quality herring and fill their company’s daily needs. This approach should result in fresher, higher quality roe, thereby maximizing product quality and value. The department will not be coordinating any test fishing efforts. As always, the department will work with processors that want to make test sets to monitor roe quality prior to the threshold biomass being documented.
Management of the gillnet fishery will be similar to past years. Ample fishing time and area will be allowed in an effort to take as much gillnet herring as possible. With only 3 permit holders expected to participate in 2016 it is clear that the whole gillnet quota will not be harvested.
At the December 2015 Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting the board removed language from the Togiak herring management plan that tied purse seine and gillnet harvest together for the first 50% of the quota. With that language removed each gear type will be able to fish freely until their respective quotas are harvested.
In 2016, the department will primarily focus the gillnet fleet in the area east of Right Hand Point. The department will consider opening areas west of Right Hand Point to the gillnet fleet if weather conditions are unfavorable in the eastern section. As in past years, the plan is to open the gillnet area to fishing when threshold biomass is documented.
Processors and fishermen may organize test fishing to monitor product quality once the area is open to determine when to begin fishing. Until it is determined that commercial quality fish are present, participants should test cautiously with a small portion of gear to reduce waste.
ADF&G OPERATIONS Beginning in late April or early May, current fishery information will be available by calling the telephone recorder in Dillingham at (907) 842-5226. Recordings will be updated regularly throughout the season as information becomes available.
The department will conduct aerial surveys of Togiak District beginning in late April or early May, depending on weather conditions. The department will monitor marine VHF channel 7 from Dillingham and be available at the phone number listed at the top of this document.
Fishing announcements and 2016 Togiak Herring outlook March 16, 2016 3 regular fishery updates will be communicated directly to each processor, published on the web, and distributed by fax and email.