Thursday, February 12, 2009

Experts Worried About Depleted Herring Stocks


Kake elder Clarence Jackson says that when he was young, the seas near Sitka boiled with herring.

"The herring have disappeared in my lifetime," he told the House special committee on fisheries Tuesday.

Jackson and others told the lawmakers they believe Southeast's Pacific herring stocks are in trouble from past overfishing and present predation. And they don't believe the state is doing enough to help them recover.

Herring is an important element of Alaska Native subsistence. It's a bellwether species and a foundation of the ecosystem on which many other species depend. And it's a famously lucrative commercial fishery, in which a few boats can gross millions in minutes to an hour.

Thomas Thornton, an anthropologist at Oxford University, said that herring stocks were overfished in the first part of the 20th century. By the time Fish and Game started counting herring, they were already seriously depleted.

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