Petersburg Pilot -

Sitka sac roe herring to be fished cooperatively this year


The Sitka sac roe herring fishery will be done cooperatively this year, with processing completed in Sitka alone, meaning no fish tax for Petersburg.

"This is an industry initiated cooperative," Dave Gordon, area management biologist at the Department of Fish and Game, said of the co-op.

He added that the sac roe herring market is "very poor right now," and that the decision was made to eliminate competition and risk - to lower costs to "make it worthwhile to go after the product."

"The quota this year is quite small," said Patrick Wilson, Petersburg Fisheries plant manager. "It does not warrant (the herring) being brought to Petersburg."

During a normal season, about 40 Icicle Seafoods, Inc. employees would process the herring.

Wilson said Sitka has the capacity alone to handle the smaller harvest level this year, set at 8,712 tons, about half of last year's quota.

He added, though, that Icicle is sending some of its employees to Sitka to help. They're hoping to send about a dozen, though nothing has been set in stone yet. Some employees are being carried over from the tanner crab season and found "other homes," Wilson said, or transferred out west to keep busy.

Gordon added that a co-op also means fewer tenders this year and about half the number of seiners normally out there.

"The downside is the economic benefits don't reach out to as many," he said.

Normally, he added, the 48 herring permit holders would "catch as many as they can themselves."

"Some do very well, some don't,­ under the model," he said.

Under the cooperative model, it's up to the industry, Gordon noted, to decide how to share the harvest.

The assumption, he added, is that there's some sort of divvy up of the pie.

Don Spigelmyre, Petersburg Fisheries fleet manager, said a lot of this is new as there's not a history of the fishery being equal share.

"The assumption is they'll get a better product out of it," Gordon said.

He added that there's a belief amongst some that a co-op might help maximize the roe recovery.

The fishery's season is expected to kick off sometime next week.


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