The opening of Alaska’s largest herring fishery, in Togiak, is approaching with a down forecast and talk of major processors lowering their capacity to prepare.
The estimated biomass of the Togiak herring run in 2014 is 157,448 tons, which is 7% less than last year, according to Matt Jones, an assistant area management biologist for the Nushagak and Togiak commercial fishing districts. The harvest level is roughly 20% of the biomass each year and is, thus, also 7% down. However, this level is still high historically, at roughly 20% above the ten-year average.
Earlier this year, seven companies planned to buy Togiak herring, but Ocean Beauty has taken its name off the list, reports the Bristol Bay Times. The remaining buyers are Togiak Fisheries, Icicle, Trident, Yard Arm Knots, Leader Creek, and Silver Bay Seafoods. For Silver Bay, the Togiak herring season will offer a crucial first test of its operations ahead of its much-anticipated entry into the Bristol Bay salmon fishery.
As of April 15, Fish and Game estimates a daily processing capacity of a little under 3,000 tons of herring, but Jones said that could change. “Of the six buyers, a few seem to be downsizing their herring operations to some degree,” he said.
The processors may be reacting to a glut in the Pacific herring market. Last year’s Togiak catch was the biggest in 20 years, and this year’s Sitka harvest actually exceeded the quota by almost a thousand tons.
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