Peter Bradley to give talk about commercial herring harvest history around Sitka Sound

Come to the Sitka Public Library from 6-7:30 p.m. on Monday night, April 8, for a presentation and conversation by Peter Bradley about the history of commercial herring fishing in Southeast Alaska and its impacts on the traditional harvest of herring.

Using excerpts from Alaska Department of Fish & Game research reports, Alaska Board of Fisheries meetings, Daily Sitka Sentinel articles, and various other sources, Peter will share some notes and observations from my ongoing research into the history of commercial herring fishing in Southeast Alaska and Sitka Sound. Although Peter will highlight some of the early history of herring fishing from 1878-1970, he will mostly focus on the 1970s, 80s, and 90s in an attempt to demonstrate some of the ways that the fishery has evolved over the years into what it is today.

Throughout, he will offer an outline to the long history of opposition to herring fishing in Southeast Alaska and will share some ideas about why there is such a discrepancy between widespread local observational knowledge and ADF&G data.

After the presentation Peter will open up for questions and conversation, recognizing that what he has been looking at is only a small part of the story.

Sitka Fish and Game Advisory Committee to meet on Nov. 29 to discuss herring issues

The Sitka Fish and Game Advisory Committee will be holding a public meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

The agenda includes Southeast Alaska finfish/herring proposals to the Alaska Board of Fisheries. For more information on the proposals, go to this link.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries will meet Jan. 11-23 in Sitka, with shellfish issues discussed on Jan. 11-14 and finfish issues on Jan. 15-23. A full list and explanation of Southeast Alaska Board of Fish proposals can be found at

The Alaska Board of Fisheries consists of seven members serving three-year terms. The board’s primary role is to conserve and develop the fishery resources of the state.

The Sitka Fish and Game Advisory Committee is one of 84 local advisory committees made up of local stakeholders who are knowledgable on local fisheries and resource use. Local advisory committees can advise and give comments to the Alaska Board of Fisheries and represent local knowledge and insights. An member of the public also can comment on specific proposals to the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

For further information, contact Lena Gilbertson at the Department of Fish & Game at 907-465-4046.

Advisory committees are local groups that meet to discuss fishing and wildlife issues and to provide recommendations to Alaska Board of Fisheries and Alaska Board of Game. All meetings are open to the public. Advisory committees are intended to provide a local forum on fish and wildlife issues. Their purpose includes: 1) developing regulatory proposals, 2) evaluating regulatory proposals and making recommendations to the appropriate board, 3) providing a local forum for fish and wildlife conservation and use, including matters relating to habitat, 4) advising the appropriate regional council on resources, and 5) consulting with individuals, organizations, and agencies.

If you are a person who needs a special accommodation in order to participate in any of these public meetings, please contact Boards Support at 907-465-4110 no later than 48 hours prior to the meeting, to make any necessary arrangements.

For more information, contact Lena Gilbertson, Boards Support Section, PO Box 115526, Juneau AK 99811-5526, phone 907-465-4046, fax 907-465-6094, email address


• Sitka Tribe of Alaska submits editorial on protecting Pacific herring as a keystone forage fish


(The following editorial about protecting forage fish, such as Pacific herring, was submitted to local media on April 11 by Sitka Tribe of Alaska tribal chairman Michael Baines.)

State of Alaska Denies Herring Forage Fish Status

2006 Herring collection 007Currently Pacific herring are acknowledged as a keystone forage fish species that is responsible for maintaining the health of the marine ecosystem in the waters of California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia (BC).  As you cross the maritime boundary between BC and Alaska herring lose their forage fish status and become just another commercially harvested finfish.  At a recent Board of Fish meeting in Anchorage, the Board heard testimony from fishery managers, the herring industry and the public on a proposal that would have acknowledged herring as a forage fish by adding them to the State’s Forage Fish Management Plan (FFMP).

The FFMP became effective in 1999 and was intended to prevent the development of new fisheries on forage fish while allowing existing commercial forage fisheries to continue.  The Plan states that forage fish perform a critical role in the marine ecosystem by transferring energy from primary (zooplankton) and secondary (phytoplankton) producers to upper trophic level shellfish, finfish, marine mammals and sea birds.  The Plan also recognizes that, “abundant populations of forage fish are necessary to sustain healthy populations of commercially important species of salmon, groundfish, halibut, and shellfish.” 

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game commented that adding herring the FFMP would not affect the way it currently manages herring fisheries in the State. When asked by the Board if herring met the definition and fulfilled the role of a forage fish as described in the Plan, the ADF&G Southeast Regional Commercial Fisheries Coordinator responded that he felt they did.

Supporters of the plan stressed that herring are an ecological keystone species that are recognized around the world as a forage fish.  The Federal government holds herring to a higher standard that other forage fish by having no directed fisheries on herring in federal waters and by listing them as a prohibited species that is not allowed to be retained as by-catch.

Herring industry representatives testified that they felt herring stocks are healthy, well managed and did not need to be acknowledged as a forage fish.  Concerns were also expressed that listing herring as a forage fish would lead to changes in the way herring are managed.  This would have required the State to look at herring in a different light.  It may have paved the way for more conservative forage fish friendly management plans to be brought forth through the Board of Fisheries process in the future.

Unfortunately for Alaskans, this proposal was voted down on a 4-3 vote.  Three of the opposing Board members are commercial fishermen or have ties to the commercial fishing industry.  These Board members reiterated comments made by the industry that herring stocks are healthy, well managed and did not need to be listed in the plan.

The arguments put forth by the industry representatives and members of the Board in opposition to the proposal were not germane to the issue of adding herring to the FFMP.  The health of a population has nothing to do with its definition as a forage fish.  If this were the case the Lynn Canal and Prince William Sound herring stocks would be considered forage fish while the apparently healthy Togiak stock would not have the same status.  Likewise, if acknowledging herring as a forage fish by adding them to the FFMP eventually changes the way stocks are managed, it should tell us something about their current management.

The acknowledgement of herring as a forage fish would have allowed managers to look at herring in a different light and might have paved the way for more conservative forage fish friendly management plans to be brought forth through the Board of Fisheries process in the future.  Refusal by the State of Alaska to acknowledge herring as a forage fish sends a message to the world about Alaska’s biased Board of Fish process and the State’s priorities when it comes to managing its marine resources.  Alaska boasts having the best managed fisheries in the world, but that reputation is now tarnished.  It’s a sad day for Alaskans when greed and political influence win out over the common good of all who live in this great State.

If you feel the Board of Fisheries erred in their decision to deny herring forage fish status, you are encouraged to contact Alaska Governor Sean Parnell and the Board of Fisheries and request that the State reconsider adding herring to the State’s FFMP.  This is an Alaskan resource that needs to be managed for the benefit of all Alaskans.

(Sent to)

Governor Sean Parnell, P.O. Box 110001, Juneau, AK 99811-0001, Phone (907) 465-3500,


Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Board of Fisheries, P.O. Box 115526, 1255 W. 8th Street, Juneau, AK 99811-5526