Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Washington
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

McGowan DW, Branch TB, Haught S, Scheuerell MD. 2021. Multi-decadal shifts in the distribution and timing of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) spawning in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 78:1611-1627


The location and timing of spawning plays a critical role in pelagic fish survival during early life stages and can affect subsequent recruitment. Spawning patterns of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) were examined in Prince William Sound (1973–2019) where the population collapsed in 1993 and has failed to recover. Abrupt shifts in spawn distribution preceded the rapid increase in population size in the 1980s and later its collapse by one and two years, respectively. As the population declined, spawning contracted away from historically productive regions towards southeastern areas of the Sound, and the proportion of occupied spawning areas declined from 65% to <9%. Spatial differences in spawn timing variation were also apparent, as the median spawn date shifted earlier by 26 days in eastern and 15 days in western areas of Prince William Sound between 1980 and 2006, and then shifted later by 25 (eastern) and 19 (western) days over a 7-year period. Effects of contracted spawning areas and timing shifts on first-year survival and recruitment are uncertain and require future investigation.