Acoustical-optical assessment of Pacific herring and their predator assemblage in Prince William Sound, Alaska

Gary L. Thomas, Richard E. Thorne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The Pacific herring Clupea pallasi population in Prince William Sound (PWS), Alaska, is both a valuable commercial resource and an important forage species for marine fish and wildlife. Historically, the herring were managed by a combination of age-structured models and egg deposition estimates. When these methods predicted a large return for spring 1993 that failed to materialize, we began surveying with echointegration-purse seine methods. After a decade of acoustic surveys, we show the new approach yields highly precise biomass estimates, which are consistent with historical measures of the miles of beach spawning. When compared, we show the traditional methods overestimated stock biomass, which resulted in harvest rates approaching 40%. In contrast, the acoustic methods are most likely to underestimate biomass. Since the acoustic estimates can be quickly obtained, we recommend their use to set harvest quotas for the fishery in the spring just prior to harvest. The shift from the traditional preseason to inseason management practices for herring in PWS is consistent with the Precautionary Principle by the fact that protection of the spawning population does not rely on the ability of science to predict how the population is changing. Furthermore, synoptic infrared measurements on our night-time acoustic surveys revealed herring to be the most important winter forage to marine birds and wildlife in PWS, including the endangered Steller sea lion Eumetopias jubatus. Given the importance of forage to marine birds and wildlife in the North Pacific during the extended winter conditions (October-March), the implementation of inseason management for herring using echointegration-purse seine techniques may be the most effective method to restore depressed populations of marine birds and mammals in the North Pacific.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-253
Number of pages7
JournalAquatic Living Resources
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Acoustic surveys
  • Inseason management
  • Pacific herring
  • Steller sea lions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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