By Mark Thiessen
ANCHORAGE -- There’s an abundant number of Southeast Alaska Pacific herring, and the species doesn’t warrant a listing under the Endangered Species Act, a federal agency announced Wednesday.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced its findings after a six-year review of the status of the Southeast Alaska Distinct Population Segment of Pacific herring.
The review, according to an announcement from NOAA Fisheries, says Southeast Alaska herring have shown a positive trend in abundance between 1980 and 2011, and there is positive growth rates and productivity.
Agency spokeswoman Julie Speegle said 2011 was the latest data available for the study.
The agency said there are periodic low levels of local spawning, but those rebuild over time and could be helped by immigration of other herring to those areas.
“While there are some threats form habitat loss in urban areas, NOAA Fisheries concluded that Pacific herring in Southeast Alaska are not likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future,” the agency said.
The Sierra Club of Juneau in 2007 petitioned NOAA Fisheries to list Pacific herring in Lynn Canal under the Endangered Species Act. The federal agency a year later concluded it was not warranted because the Lynn Canal herring were not considered to be a distinct population or species.
However, the fisheries service said the herring were part of the larger Southeast Alaska Distinct Population Segment, and the agency began investigating whether that population deserved listing. The agency wasn’t under any regulatory timeline to make its decision, Speegle said, explaining the six-year lapse between beginning the study and Wednesday’s announcement.
Mark Rorick, chairman of the Tongass chapter of the Sierra Club, which was the former Juneau chapter, said he was disappointed with NOAA’s decision.
He said it seems NOAA did consider some data on historical populations in the region, but “they apparently did not use it as a baseline for the declining population of herring in the whole Southeast Alaska region or specific places.”
The range for Southeast Alaska herring goes from Dixon Entrance in the south, where the herring are genetically different from the British Columbia stock, to Cape Fairweather on the north.