Historical Southeast Alaska Herring Catch

Man at Capstan Dumping Herring
(Alaska State Library Place File ASL-Craig-3, ASL-P01-0952, Alaska State Library--click to enlarge from source)

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Reduction Fishery

Records of catch and production from early Southeast Alaska herring reduction plants appear in a number of places. Occasional visitors to the Killisnoo plant for example, such as Scidmore (1885, 1893 and her section in the 1890 census given in U.S. Dept. of Interior 1893) and Inkersley (1895) would record catch from information given to them at the plant. More official-looking catch tabulations are given in Moser (1899) and by the meticulous John N. Cobb (Cobb 1906 is particularly thorough). However, these later "official" authors acquire their data one or two decades after the initial visitors, and after the Killisnoo plant changes ownership. All available historical records were examined and attempts were made to reconcile disparate figures. Table 1 lists the available sources of catch and indicates what appeared to be the most reliable source or "best blend" of the catch information, through the closure of the last plant in 1966.

Southeast Herring Reduction Catch, 1880-1966

Figure 1. Southeast Alaska herring reduction fishery catch, quota, and number of operating plants, 1880-1966, based on Table 1.

Herring catch shows a long period of more-or-less constant catch, ranging from 4,000 to 10,000 tons, from 1880 through 1918, when Killisnoo was the only operating plant. It might be argued that these harvests were sustainable regionally, or at least at the edge of sustainabilty. With the intensive capitilization in the early 1920s, there followed three waves of "boom-and-bust" cycles, where peak catches exceeded 40,000 tons annually. By this time, the paucity of herring during the bust cycles had attracted federal regulators, and quotas were enacted to preserve herring for other uses (food, bait, prey for other species). Note that the quotas always lag the catch in the declining phase of each cycle. Fishermen are first unable to find enough fish to catch the quota, then the quota is lowered in the subsequent year. There was no stock assessment focused on abundance estimation, so quotas merely reflected fishing experience from the prior year. The number of operating plants peaks in 1928; as the efficiency of factory processes and vessels increased, fewer plants, fishermen, and vessels could attain the same production as in the earlier, more labor-intensive era.


Table 1. Summary of Southeastern Alaska Reduction Fishery Harvests. The source of (“best blend” of catch estimates is indicated by color and source footnote).

Summary of Southeastern Alaska Reduction Fishery Harvests.
(“Best Blend” indicated by color and source footnote)
Source
Moser Cobb Annual Fish/Fur Rounsefell Skud Reid Board of
(1899) (1906) Seal Rpts. 1906-1912 (1930) (1960) (1971) Fisheries Reports Best Quota
Year a b c-i j k l m Blend l
1878 0 0 b
1879 0 0 b
1880 2 2 b
1881 0 0 b
1882 1,240 1,520 1,520 b
1883 4,200 4,200 4,200 b
1884 6,600 6,600 6,600 b
1885 8,500 8,500 8,500 b
1886 11,000 11,000 11,000 b
1887 11,100 11,100 11,100 b
1888 3,000 3,000 3,000 b
1889 5,246 5,246 5,246 b
1890 5,242 5,242 5,242 b
1891 8,822 8,760 8,760 b
1892 9,358 9,358 9,358 b
1893 7,225 7,225 7,225 b
1894 7,590 7,590 7,590 b
1895 3,224 3,224 3,224 b
1896 2,759 2,759 2,759 b
1897 3,501 3,501 3,501 b
1898 4,443 4,443 b
1899 3,552 3,552 b
1900 6,006 1,194 6,006 b
1901 6,275 1,250 6,275 b
1902 4,087 812 4,087 b
1903 6,522 1,494 6,522 b
1904 7,631 1,521 7,631 b
1905 6,364 1,309 6,364 b
1906 3,350 1,005 3,350 c
1907 2,480 1,382 2,480 d
1908 3,756 1,711 3,756 e
1909 5,200 1,075 5,200 f
1910 5,887 5,890 6,867 5,890 j
1911 9,570 7,526 12,057 7,526 j
1912 6,830 5,270 16,067 5,270 j
1913 5,830 13,496 5,830 j
1914 4,320 8,318 4,320 j
1915 2,918 6,964 2,918 j
1916 4,237 11,194 4,237 j
1917 4,618 12,445 4,618 j
1918 3,085 17,825 3,085 j
1919 3,665 10,962 3,665 j
1920 12,760 16,452 12,760 j
1921 2,265 6,012 2,265 j
1922 8,279 16,950 8,279 j
1923 17,464 21,240 17,464 j
1924 25,316 29,395 25,316 j
1925 50,430 57,782 50,430 j
1926 70,978 73,843 70,978 j
1927 46,913 45,310 46,913 j
1928 58,776 53,007 58,776 j
1929 78,749 78,778 78,749 78,778 l
1930 70,855 70,854 70,855 70,854 l
1931 44,857 44,858 44,857 44,858 l
1932 49,786 49,785 49,786 49,785 l
1933 61,588 61,587 61,588 61,587 l
1934 66,842 66,842 66,842 66,842 l
1935 58,155 58,155 58,155 58,155 l
1936 36,713 36,712 36,713 36,712 l
1937 50,334 50,333 50,334 50,333 l
1938 22,356 22,356 22,356 22,356 l
1939 20,028 20,027 20,028 20,027 l
1940 0 0 3,137 0 l 3,750
1941 1,917 1,915 6,230 1,915 l 6,250
1942 0 0 3,691 0 l 250
1943 6,235 6,235 6,235 6,235 l 12,500
1944 16,801 16,802 16,801 16,802 l 25,000
1945 24,126 24,523 24,126 24,523 l 31,250
1946 37,564 37,564 37,564 37,564 l 43,750
1947 41,829 41,828 41,829 41,828 l 43,750
1948 16,125 16,114 16,125 16,114 l 50,000
1949 14,279 14,278 14,279 14,278 l 25,000
1950 13,411 13,409 13,411 13,409 l 18,750
1951 10,652 10,652 10,652 10,652 l 12,500
1952 16,020 16,020 16,020 16,020 l 0
1953 12,435 12,435 12,435 12,435 l 0
1954 6,446 6,446 6,446 6,446 l 6,250
1955 11,368 11,368 11,368 11,368 l 12,500
1956 22,819 22,819 22,819 22,819 l 22,500
1957 22,938 24,745 22,938 l 22,500
1958 36,185 38,797 36,185 l 42,500
1959 47,623 49,866 47,623 l 54,500
1960 36,706 38,906 36,706 l 44,500
1961 22,766 24,709 22,766 l 44,500
1962 13,977 16,959 13,977 l 35,000
1963 13,517 15,703 13,517 l 35,000
1964 22,128 23,553 22,128 l 35,000
1965 9,268 12,390 9,268 l 35,000
1966 5,073 5,670 5,073 l 35,000
Sources:
a Moser, J.N. 1899. The salmon and salmon fisheries of Alaska. Bulletin of the
United States Fish Commission for 1898 18:1-178.) Page 124.
b Cobb, J.N. 1906. The commercial fisheries of Alaska in 1905. Bureau of Commercial
Fisheries Document 603.
c Cobb, J.N. 1907. Report on the fisheries of Alaska in 1906. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Document No. 618.
All figures from text on page 53-54, except Central Alaska production and fertilizer and oil from table on page 10.
d Marsh, M.C., and J.N. Cobb. 1908. The fisheries of Alaska in 1907. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Document No. 632.
All figures from table at bottom of page 54, except Central Alaska production and fertilizer and oil from
large table entitled "Products of the Alaska fisheries in 1907", and raw herring utilized for reduction from
text on page 55.
e Marsh, M.C., and J.N. Cobb. 1909. The fisheries of Alaska in 1908. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Document No. 645.
All figures from table at the bottom of page 65, except reduction figures from text at top of page 66.
f Marsh, M.C., and J.N. Cobb. 1910. The fisheries of Alaska in 1909. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Document No. 730.
Reduction fishery figures from text on page 48. Text on page 48 describes an active, growing herring
bait fishery, but does not give harvests.
g Marsh, M.C., and J.N. Cobb. 1911. The fisheries of Alaska in 1910. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Document No. 746.
All figures from table on top of page 51, except herring utilized for reduction taken from text on page 51.
h Evermann, B.W. 1912. Alaska fisheries and fur industries in 1911. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Document No. 766.
All figures from table on bottom of page 62. No reduction utilization mentioned, so this was calculated
I Evermann, B.W. 1913. Alaska fisheries and fur industries in 1912. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Document No. 780.
All figures from table on bottom of page 60. No reduction utilization mentioned, so this was calculated
j Rounsefell, G.A. 1930. Contribution to the biology of the Pacific herring, Clupea pallasii, and the condition of
the fishery in Alaska. Bulletin of the U.S. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries 45:227-320.
k Skud, B.E., H.M. Sakuda, and G.M. Reid. 1960. Statistics of the Alaska Herring Fishery 1878-1956.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Statistical Digest 48. 21p.
l Reid, G.M. 1971. Age composition , weight, length, and sex of herring, Clupea pallasii, used for reduction
in Alaska, 1929-66. NOAA Technical Report NMFS SSRF 634, Seattle.
m Board of Fisheries Report Tables: these do not list sources and contain minor discrepancies with
historical data; historical data are felt to be more reliable.

 


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Caution: These pages contain preliminary research results, and are presented here only to further collaborative research and analysis. The information presented has not been fully analyzed or verified for correctness. Please consult the original literature citations for authentic interpretations or contact the author regarding applications of any analysis presented on these pages.

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