There will be an additional pre-season meeting when the fishery goes on two hour notice. We saw a graph that showed for the last three years the herring population size and spawn timing have been very similar. 2015 had two unique spawn times, but the second was much smaller. Back in 2011 the biomass was much larger and the spawn occurred much later.
The 2015 dive surveys showed good egg deposition and Krestof Sound showed better spawn than usual during the first spawn. The dives on the second smaller spawn showed significantly less egg deposition. The 2015 season had 87.9 nm of spawn, this is the fourth highest since 1954. In the 2015 season, the four year old age class was missing, this paralleled the 2014 season when the three year old class was missing.
We learned that the three year age class was very strong throughout all of herring stocks in Southeast and Kodiak in 2015. This is paralleled by the high amount of age four class caught in the 2016 test fishery. This recruitment class is measured to be the third largest since 1980.
This year, samples of Herring in Lower Cook Inlet and Kodiak have shown skinnier fish than usual.
The 2016 winter test fishery caught fish with an average weight of 101 grams. The four year old class averaged 88 grams, this class makes up 65% of the biomass this year. All of the age classes in the 2016 test fishery had a lower average weight than fish caught in the 2015 winter samples, except the age four class. We saw a graph showing a trend of heavier fish caught for each age class in the spring directed fishery compared to the winter test fishery for the last three years.
We had a discussion about herring return timing. It was noted that the older and therefore larger fish tend to spawn first. Consequently more of these are caught in the fishery. Because the fishery only removes 15-20% of the biomass, the department didn’t see a problem with catching a higher percent of older age class fish. They said 60,000 tons will still be left in the waters to spawn in 2016. The industry felt that the older, larger fish are higher quality.
We talked about changing the two hour warning to an hour and a half warning, the department didn’t think they could get mobilized in less time than an hour and a half. No decision was made on this.
Processors asked about a harvest threshold that would determine whether or not the fishery opened two days in a row. Due to processing constraints, they thought that a harvest of 4,000-4,500 tons in an opening should be a threshold resulting in the next day being taken off from fishing.
Everybody was happy with last season’s lines and having them available in Latitudes and Longitudes. The lines will remain the same for 2016.