According to ADF&G, the hefty purse seine harvest is due to a recent change in gear type allocation. That change shifted an additional 10 percent of the quota to the purse seine fleet.
This year’s purse seine harvest for the Togiak sac roe herring fishery is projected to break the record for that gear type's largest harvest. The purse seine fishery closed for the season on Friday. The initial harvest is 23,060 tons – just over the previous record of 22,853 tons set in 1994.
This year’s hefty haul is due to a recent change to the allocation plan. That's according to Tim Sands, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
“We’ve had bigger harvests as a cumulative fishery, but we’ve never put it all together in one gear type,” he explained.
Last year, the Board of Fish voted to increase the purse seine fleet’s allocation to 80 percent of the harvestable surplus. It also gave ADF&G the authority to reallocate half of any unharvested gillnet quota and the spawn-on-kelp quota to the purse sein fleet. The department acted on that authority last week.
“The main thing was the allocation plan changed, and so there was more allocation,” Sands said.
The biomass has exhibited prime health this season. After the fishery's earliest start on record in April, windy conditions kept temperatures down around the district, and fish generally avoided shallower areas. According to Sands, that hasn't slowed down spawning.
“Even though the fish weren’t moving in shore into the shallow bays like we normally see, we still could see lots of fish. And they’ve just been spawning like crazy over there,” he said.
The fleet's final harvest numbers will come from fish tickets. If that count meets the department’s projection, it will set another record for the season.
The district is still open to gillnet fishing. Because there are fewer than three buyers this season, that harvest is confidential.
Daily changes to the district can be seen here via satellite.