SITKA (AP) -- The preliminary guideline harvest level for next spring's Sitka Sound herring fishery is 9,492 tons, up from a 5,120-ton quota last spring.
The actual amount harvested by the 51 seiners in two mid-March openings this year was 4,800 tons.
State biologists said the 2001 quota is based on an estimated spawning biomass of 47,460 tons and a harvest rate of 20 percent.
If that harvest level remains unchanged by surveys over the winter, then it would be fourth highest in the history of the fishery, state fisheries biologist Dave Gordon said.
The quota increase, if it comes about, is due primarily to the high recruitment of 3-year-old fish during the spring 2000 return, Gordon said.
The state Department of Fish and Game believes that age class made up 20 percent of the stocks.
''The number of 3-year-olds is a big driver as to whether a population will go up or down,'' Gordon told The Daily (Sitka) Sentinel. ''We saw an above-average recruitment this year.''
About a third of the herring begin spawning as 3-year-olds. They become a more significant portion of the spawning biomass when they return as 4-year-olds.
''This year (2001), we're looking at a population comprised mostly of 4-year-old herring with significant amounts of 6- and 7-year-old herring,'' Gordon said.
Fisheries biologists also estimate the number of eggs deposited in Sitka Sound and the surrounding area during the spawning season, the growth of fish over the summer and marine survival in determining the spawning biomass.
''We're seeing back-to-back years of good recruitment of herring,'' Gordon said.
It appears to be part of a larger fisheries trend in Sitka Sound.
''That can be seen in salmon returns of pinks and chums as well, of hatchery and wild stocks,'' Gordon said. ''We've seen a period of five- (or) six years of very good survival in a lot of fisheries in Sitka Sound. How long it's going to last, who knows?''
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