Alaska Commercial Herring Fishery

Pacific herring were once fished extensively for use as bait, fertilizer, oil, and animal feed. Vast quantities were harvested for nonfood purposes through 1959, when Peruvian anchovies flooded the same markets and the Alaska herring fishery went bust.

pacific herring imageThe Japanese consider kazunoko, dried and salted herring roe sacs, among the finest of delicacies, and also enjoy eating “roe-on-kelp,” dried and salted raw seaweed with dried-on herring eggs. In the early 1970s, when Japanese herring fisheries ran low, Alaska’s herring fisheries were “rediscovered.” The Japanese market commanded high prices and the boom was on.

Like a number of the other Alaska fisheries, U.S. fisheries managers restricted the number of herring licenses and limited the total allowable catch in Alaska’s herring fishery. The herring fisheries are managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G). The herring fishery is broken up into the following four sub-fisheries:

  • food and bait
  • sac roe
  • roe on kelp
  • herring pound fisheries

The majority of Alaska’s herring harvest is taken in the sac roe fisheries. Both purse seiners and gillnetters participate in the herring sac roe fishery. Purse seine gear is used almost exclusively in herring food/bait fisheries

Here’s a great interview about purse seining for herring on our content partner’s website,

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