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Habitat Assessment: Pacific Herring and Oil

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Pacific Herring (Clupea pallasii)
Pacific Herring (Clupea pallasii)
 

Few species of fish are of greater ecological importance than the Pacific herring, a species central to the diet of many birds, fish, and marine mammals in Alaska. The Prince William Sound herring population collapsed 4 years after the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, igniting debate about the cause. Some parties, such as commercial fishermen who once depended on this stock for income, are convinced that the spill was causal, others are not.

Our researchers organized an interagency group of experts to reexamine the role of oil in limiting the recovery of herring in Prince William Sound. There were certainly toxic effects of the spill to herring embryos and larvae in 1989, but lingering oil today is not suspected of having a continuing effect. The lack of recovery today cannot be linked directly to the oil spill, nor can it be eliminated as a root cause. Disease continues to plague this population, while other populations in the state do not experience this sort of continuing stress. Predation pressure from marine mammals may now play a role. Genetic diversity is high and does not appear to play a role in limiting the population recovery. Continued research of Pacific Herring and their role in the marine food web is needed so management and conservation of this species in Alaska is maintained.

Related Links
Alaska Department of Fish & Game - Herring Fisheries in Alaska
Northwest Fisheries Science Center - Status Review of Cherry Pt. Pacific Herring
Search for EVOS Trustee Council Research Reports

Contacts
Mark Carls
Auke Bay Laboratories
Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries

Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute
17109 Pt Lena Loop Rd
Juneau AK 99801
(907) 789-6019
Mark.Carls@noaa.gov



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