The biomass of spawning Pacific herring indicator is the estimated annual tonnage of herring that are reproducing in Puget Sound. Herring, along with a few other small schooling fish species, play a unique role in the food web: they are an essential source of food for larger fish, seabirds, and marine mammals. Herring require clean water and natural shorelines, so their continued survival depends on maintaining links between nearshore and open-water habitats.
Four year average spawning biomass estimates for three genetic stock groups and the combined total are shown with dashed and solid lines; dashed lines represent periods of incomplete data; each color corresponds to a different stock group, and black is the combined total of all stocks. The 25-year mean (1986-2010) for each stock is referenced as a baseline and is shown with horizontal dotted lines of corresponding colors. The 2020 targets are shown with a dot for each stock.
Key Indicator Results
All three stocks or stock groups have declined since 2010, and none of the 2020 target values for the three Pacific herring stocks or stock groups have been met.
The Cherry Point herring stock in North Puget Sound, once the largest stock in the Sound, has declined by over 96 percent since the earliest sampling date in 1973 and shows no sign of recovery.
The Squaxin Pass and 'Other Stocks' complex do not exhibit the sharp decline seen in the Cherry Point stock, and are relatively closer to their 2020 target values than the Cherry Point stock. In fact, in some years since 2010, the 'Other Stocks' complex has exceeded the 25-year mean.
Hood Canal’s Quilcene Bay stock (part of the 'Other Stocks' complex) had increased more than 240 percent over the five years leading to 2018 and contributed over half of all Puget Sound herring spawning biomass, but in 2019 returned to more typical levels below 3,000 tonnes.
An increase of over 1,850 tonnes in 2019 of the Port Orchard/Port Madison stock helped offset some of the reduction of the Quilcene Bay stock.
No spawning was documented at Elliott Bay for the first time since the stock was documented in 2012.
Several spawning events in 2019 were notable because they occured at the fringes or outside of the times and areas where most recent spawning activity had been documented, and several of these events were intitially reported by well informed citizens.
Owing to natural fluctuations in abundance as a consequence of oceanographic and climatic parameters, the Squaxin and 'Other Stocks' complex may reach their respective target values again over the next five years. However, there is no evidence to suggest that herring spawning biomass at Cherry Point will increase in the near future and reach its target value by 2020, or that the biomass of the 'Other Stocks' complex will be sustained at or above their target values.
Increase the overall amount of spawning herring throughout Puget Sound to 19,380 tons (17,581 metric tonnes). For each stock, the targets are:
Cherry Point: 5,000 tons (4,536 metric tonnes)
Squaxin Pass: 880 tons (798 metric tonnes)
All other stocks: 13,500 tons (12,247 metric tonnes)
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Marine Fish Unit (Forage Fish)