2012 Washington State Herring Stock Status Report


Published: July 2014

Pages: 107

Publication number: FPA-14-09

Author(s): Kurt C. Stick, Adam Lindquist, and Dayv Lowry

Executive Summary

This is the fifth edition of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Pacific herring stock status report. Unlike previous editions, the scope of this report is limited to Puget Sound due to a lack of assessment of coastal herring stocks since the last stock status report published in 2009. Localized, documented herring spawning grounds in Washington waters are used to represent individual spawning stocks, and spawning biomass and other characteristics are reported at this scale. However, genetic studies to date have indicated that most Puget Sound herring stocks are not distinct from each other, or British Columbia herring stocks; the exceptions being the Cherry Point and Squaxin Pass stocks. These studies indicate that it may be more meaningful to examine abundance trends of Puget Sound herring on a larger scale than the individual spawning stock level presented in this report. An evaluation of Puget Sound herring biomass trends at various geographic aggregation levels is presented on page 63 of this report.

Individual stock status classifications since the 2009 status report have exhibited a decrease in the percentage classified as healthy or moderately healthy (Table E1) while cumulative abundance of all stocks, excluding Cherry Point stock, remained relatively stable (Figure E1) over the years. This report contains the first spawning abundance data for the newly identified Elliot Bay herring stock, which was first documented in April of 2012 by WDFW staff.

For the 2011-12 period the aggregate Puget Sound herring stock, excluding the Cherry Point and Squaxin Pass stocks, is considered moderately healthy. The overall abundance of south and central Puget Sound herring stocks since the previous stock status report has decreased, although the cumulative south/central stocks (excluding Squaxin Pass) are still classified as moderately healthy. Within this region, the Quilcene Bay and Holmes Harbor herring stocks are currently at high levels of abundance and have comprised an increasing portion of the south/central Puget Sound region’s spawning biomass. The Cherry Point stock shows no signs of recovery from its critically low level of abundance. The cumulative north Puget Sound (excluding the Cherry Point stock) regional spawning biomass is classified as moderately healthy; the Strait of Juan de Fuca regional spawning biomass continues to be at a low level of abundance (critical status); and the Squaxin Pass stock is assessed as moderately healthy at this time.