Prince William Sound herring may succumb to starvation during their first winter. They apparently are unable to accumulate fat reserves sufficient to last the period of relative poor food availability during the long Alaskan winter. Past and current studies show that herring lose much of their accumulated energy between November and March, and suggest that in order to survive winter, herring need a certain level of energy before winter sets in.
To better understand over-winter survival, researcher's at the Prince William Sound Science Center are looking at the energy content of herring and their main food sources. Herring are collected from a total of eight sites throughout Prince William Sound using gillnets deployed by researchers and also former commercial herring fishermen. Samples are being collected in November and March to allow for comparison of energy levels in herring prior to and just after the depth of winter in Alaska.
This component of the multi-faceted juvenile herring project will help improve our understanding of over-winter habitat utilization by age 0 herring. This study is designed to increase our knowledge about the processes driving over-winter mortality in order to suggest better herring restoration options. Better understanding the relationships between herring and their food source will allow resource managers to predict years when herring may do better or worse based on food availability.