Alaska seeks higher-value markets and uses for herring

The Herring Revitalization Committee is launched to understand better current and potential herring markets and to review possible regulatory changes to facilitate them.
Alaska launches the Herring Revitalization Committee to assess current and potential markets, as well as possible regulatory changes to complement them. In the picture, a school of herring.

Alaska launches the Herring Revitalization Committee to assess current and potential markets, as well as possible regulatory changes to complement them. In the picture, a school of herring.

Photo: Adobe Stock.

"Alaska’s herring roe fisheries have declined in value since the 1990’s. The regulatory structure was designed to support a majority of the harvest for herring roe. To facilitate higher value markets and uses for herring, regulatory structures must change."  That is the idea the Alaska Board of Fisheries (BOF) highlights as the basis for the creation - along with the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC) - of the new Herring Revitalization Committee.

The objective of this joint committee will be to review the commercial herring industry statewide. Such a review will focus on current and potential markets, differences among Alaska's regional herring fisheries, and possible legal pathways for solving changes in regulatory systems.

For the benefit of herring fishery and the entire seafood industry

The Alaska Board of Fisheries oversees the waters administered by this U.S. state and, as such, is the principal entity for creating and amending fisheries for maximum value. It has been establishing numerous herring fisheries around the state - including historic allocations to certain uses - since the 1970s.

For its part, the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission was established to limit participation in the fisheries, and this was in part to support the economic stability of commercial fishermen. As the Commission established its herring permit system, it did so primarily based on seasonal fisheries and product form, i.e., sac roe, roe on kelp, food/bait.

Now, both authorities agree in recognizing that - for the benefit of the seafood industry - regulatory systems may need to be adapted to support changes in the herring fishery. Therefore, to better understand current and potential markets, as well as to review potential regulatory changes to facilitate those markets, the Board and Commission have agreed to create this joint committee on herring revitalization statewide.

The committee will complete its activities in January 2025

The brand new committee will hold its first meeting on April 2, 2024, with an agenda limited to selecting advisors - to be nominated by industry and the public - and determining research needs. It will then have a follow-up meeting on April 12, 2024, and will do so as needed thereafter. It plans to do it 2 to 3 times starting in the fall of 2024 and complete its activities in January 2025.

The Herring Revitalization Committee membership will include at least two members of the Alaska Board of Fisheries, a commissioner of the CFEC, and regionally diverse representation from members of the public, including commercial and subsistence fishermen, and the processing sector. In addition, the committee will seek assistance from the Department of Law, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The committee intends to examine multiple aspects of the Alaska herring industry and encourages suggestions for research topics. General categories of topics may range from current and potential markets - whether local, domestic, or international - to alternative fishing methods, to product form or regional differences in herring physiology, to life history patterns, to migration. As mentioned before, final products may include assessments of current and potential markets and regulatory options for change to complement potential markets.

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