Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) is a foundation and bellwether species for North Pacific marine ecosystems. Herring roe fisheries are among the most lucrative, competitive, and controversial in the region, often pitting commercial and subsistence users against one another. One reason for this is that productive spawning areas (and times) are limited and historical population dynamics and ecology of herring are not well understood. Yet many communities with local and traditional knowledge (LTK) of herring fisheries claim that historical stocks were larger and spawning areas more numerous, but that they have dwindled due to factors such as over-harvesting, predation, disease, development, and climate change. While shifts in stocks and spawning areas have been reasonably well documented since 1980, no synthesis of the deeper archaeological, historical, and ethno-ecological records on herring spawning areas and their relation to local ecosystems has been carried out.
Our goal is to synthesize this information for the region encompassing Southeast Alaska from Dixon Entrance to Yakutat Bay, where herring and herring roe traditionally have been harvested in quantity. Using existing published and unpublished archaeological, ethnological, historical and biological records as well as community focus groups in each historical herring stock region, we propose to compile a historical and spatial database using geographic information systems (GIS) to:
1) identify the extent of historic and prehistoric herring spawning and massing areas;
2) link changes in herring spawn extent and intensity to environmental and human factors in the socio-ecological system; and
3) identify sensitive areas for protection and potential restoration of herring spawning.
We welcome your comments!