The state Board of Fisheries is meeting this week in Sitka. As usual in those parts, herring is the hot topic.
Proposal 209 is of particular interest to The Highliner. It would convert the Sitka Sound sac roe herring harvest from derby fishing to equal shares for each of the 50 state permit holders.
The idea might sound familiar. Some seiners tried in 2006 to split up the fishery, but the board shot them down.
Now the proposal is again before the seven-member board, and it’ll be interesting to see if proponents have the votes this time.
Sitka herring is one of the state’s most competitive – and often lucrative – commercial fisheries.
The fishery opens in late March and typically plays out in a few lightning rounds totaling only a few hours.
Last season’s catch was worth more than $8.8 million for an average of almost $177,000 per boat.
Obviously, with the water swimming with that kind of money, it’s no surprise that tempers flare and hulls grind sometimes at Sitka.
The idea of dividing the fishery into equal shares is controversial, and some question exists as to whether the Board of Fisheries even has the legal authority to take such an action.
Supporters say equal shares would result in a safer, less frenzied fishery with higher product quality and value. But some seiners prefer racing for the herring in hopes of above-average catches.
Indeed, the chances for a jackpot are considerable in the Sitka herring fishery. During a half-hour opener last season, three boats each reportedly bagged monster catches worth $500,000-plus!
The board meets through Thursday.