After an influx of fish over the weekend, Togiak herring fishery opens to purse seiners

May 4, 2021

Around 10 seiners, along with a few gillnetters, are expected to tap the 47,300-ton quota. That participation is a jump from last year, but it’s still much lower than normal.

A Fish and Game survey photo of Togiak herring on Wednesday, April 28, 2021.
Credit ADF&G

The Togiak purse seine herring fishery opened at 6 p.m. on Monday.

Two processors are buying Togiak herring this season. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Area management biologist Tim Sands expects around 10 seiners to participate, along with a few gillnetters. That’s a jump from last year, but Sands said it’s still much lower than normal.

“Prior to COVID we had four processors participating and now we’re down to two," he said. "I think that speaks to market conditions — there just isn’t that much demand for herring row anymore."

Togiak herring fishermen target the fish for their eggs. But the market for roe has declined for years from its peak in the 1990s — back then, roe was priced at $1,000 a ton. According to Sands, the 2020 price was at $100.

On Fish and Game’s survey of the Togiak district Monday, biologists observed most of the herring west of Tongue Point, with some spawn in Rocky Bay and near the tip of Hagemeister Island. They also observed herring along Cape Constantine, the eastern face of Hagemeister island, and in several bays.

Quite a few fish showed up since their survey on Friday, according to Sands.

“We flew Friday and didn’t see anything, and then on Monday we saw close to 50,000 tons. So that’s a pretty quick scaling up, but it’s not unprecedented or anything,” he said.

The total allowable harvest is 47,300 tons. The purse seine fleet is allocated 80% of that, and the gillnet fleet can harvest the remaining 20%.

Dutch Harbor Food and Bait will receive 7% of the remaining allocation, and Togiak’s spawn on kelp fishery has a fixed allocation of 1,500 tons.

The Togiak herring fishery is open to purse seine fishing until further notice. In Fish and Game’s announcement, it said it will adjust the open area to allow for gillnet fishing when that fleet arrives on the ground. This season, the department will focus the gillnetters in the area east of Right Hand Point.

Contact the author at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200