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Dutch Harbor herring quota set

July 14th 4:15 pm | Jim Paulin Print this article   Email this article  

The Dutch Harbor herring fishery was set to open this week, on Thursday, and maybe nothing disruptive will happen for a change, if the fish, whales, and Google all cooperate.

Last year was the biggest bust in recent memory, with just 208 tons harvested out of a total quota of 2,166 tons. One boat got tired of waiting around, and finally left, but not giving up all hope. The fishing vessel Taurus's crew pinned up FBI-style "wanted" posters for herring around Unalaska, with phone and email contacts in case the fish suddenly appeared.

The fishy fugitives stayed on the lam, and weren't caught.

Two years ago, in 2015, seiners netted nearly 2,000 tons, in a season delayed a day by whales as the boats stayed at a distance to avoid dangerous collisions with the numerous massive humpbacks feeding on the herring.

While the fishermen dodged the whales, the local state biologists were swamped by phone calls prompted by search engine requests to the Internet firm Google. The herring fishery is managed from Sand Point.

Google listed the Sand Point office as the main phone number for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and suddenly the commercial fishery biologists in the southwest village were deluged with phone calls about sportfishing for salmon in the Anchorage and Kenai areas, and other questions.

The biologists in the tiny rural office responded by forwarding all calls to Juneau, where they were screened for relevance to Sand Point or someplace else.

"One day we probably fielded close to 100 phone calls," said biologist Matt Keyse. "The Google machine decided to grab our phone number, and wouldn't let go of it." Eventually, Google was contacted and agreed to post a more appropriate phone number, though it wasn't easy reaching the tech giant, he said.

Sand Point is a small community on an island offshore of the southern Alaska Peninsula. "Sand Point, where the heck is that?" was one reaction from callers, he said. "We got some interesting phone calls, that's for sure."

And for somebody planning the trip of a lifetime sportfishing salmon in Alaska, they might have been surprised to learn they couldn't drive there in a camper from the Lower 48. Sand Point is way off the road system by several hundred miles, accessible only by plane or boat or the aging state ferry Tustemena, when it's not broken down like it is again this year.

The 2017 Dutch Harbor food and bait herring fishery allocation is 1,485 tons for purse seine gear and 242 tons for gillnet gear.

Fish and Game biologist Lisa Fox in Sand Point said no more than three seiners had registered as of Monday. As usual, no gillnetters were registered. What's not harvested by the skiffs and other gillnet boats gets turned over to the larger seiners.

The Unalaska and Akutan districts will open to commercial herring fishing for 24 hours from noon Thursday, July 13 until noon Friday, July 14, 2017, according to Fish and Game, potentially followed by 24-hour extensions as needed, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Fishermen are reminded of the following closed waters: waters of Unalaska Bay, between Unalaska and Amaknak Islands, including Margaret's Bay, west of a line from the "Bishop's House" at 53̊ 52.64′ N, 166̊ 32.30′ W to a point on Amaknak Island at 53̊ 52.82′ N, 166̊ 32.13′ W and north of a line from a point south of Agnes Beach at 53̊ 52.28′ N, 166̊ 32.68′ W to a point at 53̊ 52.35′ N, 166̊ 32.95′ W on Amaknak Island.

Each permit holder registered for the fishery is required to report fishing activities and harvest to the department by noon July 16, 2017, regardless of whether or not they fished or harvested herring.

Commercial fishing periods will be opened and closed by emergency order based upon anticipated fishing effort, harvest rates from previous openings, processing capacity, and herring abundance. The department will notify the fleet of subsequent fishing periods after catch reports are received and the amount of herring harvested during the prior period has been determined.

Prior to participating, fishermen must possess a current Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission permit for the fishery and must register with the department in Sand Point. Processors and tenders must also register with the department prior to taking any herring. Fishermen should have a secure market prior to harvesting any herring, according to ADF&G.

Jim Paulin can be reached at jpaulin@reportalaska.com

 

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