A seiner with herring in its net. Photo by Ian McAllister

A seiner with herring in its net. Photo by Ian McAllister

DFO sets Salish Sea herring harvest rate at 20 per cent

Coastal communities and conservation groups say that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has bowed to industry by opening the herring fishery in the Salish Sea. The harvest rate has been set at 20 per cent.

Conservancy Hornby Island and Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns have both launched petitions to suspend the fishery. Johns has so far gathered more than 2,500 signatures on his e-petition. For every 25 signatures, he is able to rise in Parliament and challenge Bernadette Jordan, the new Minister for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

READ: Opponents call for closure of herring…

“We know the overall risk the fishery poses to the stocks was changed from moderate to high in October of 2019,” said Johns, the NDP Critic for Fisheries and Oceans. “Their own department is saying they recommend a reduction of harvest rate from 20 to 10 per cent is the most effective way to mitigate the stock assessment errors…This is inter-connected to the salmon emergency in B.C.”

DFO said it’s aware of both petitions, and has met with Conservancy Hornby Island to hear their concerns about the harvest, and to provide information on its harvest management approach and stock assessment program.

“The department will continue to maintain an open dialogue on these issues,” a news release states.

The 2020 Pacific Herring Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) was approved following a 30-day consultation period with First Nations communities and organizations, and with stakeholders such as commercial harvesters.

In 2016, Johns said the herring volume for the Strait of Georgia was 129,000 tonnes. This year’s prediction is 54,000 tonnes.

“We are seeing a very quick demise of the bedrock foundation species, and that’s our herring,” Johns said. “It’s a primary diet of our salmon, and resident killer whales. If we wipe this species out, it’s going to take decades, if even possible, to bring those stocks back to abundancy.”

In 2015, DFO said the range of forecast spawning biomass for 2016 in the Strait of Georgia was 80,270 to 183,405 metric tonnes. The most recent assessment estimates the spawning biomass in 2016, after removing catch, to have been 82,674 (range: 67,840 to 101,337). The catch in 2016 was 21,310 metric tonnes.

The 2019-2020 harvest level in the Strait of Georgia is 10,895 tonnes. The allowable catch has been reduced by more than 50 per cent from the allowable catch in the 2018-2019 fishing season in response to the lower stock forecast for 2020.

“Pacific Herring spawning biomass forecasts are provided as a range,” DFO states. “In 2019, the range of forecast spawning biomass for the Strait of Georgia was 67,000 to 221,400 metric tonnes. The range in forecast spawning biomass for 2020 is 27,000 to 110,000 metric tonnes.”

DFO says the abundance of Pacific Herring is “highly variable.

“DFO’s harvest management approach is designed to account for this variability. The performance of the approach has been evaluated by DFO science and subjected to scientific peer review. The approach is designed to avoid the harvesting of spawning biomass levels below a limit reference point.

“The reduced allowable catch is consistent with the conservation goals of the management approach and provides opportunity for industry, including those First Nations that participate in the commercial fishery.”

At the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) convention last April, Johns said nearly every elected official voted to suspend the herring fishery in the Salish Sea for 2020. He notes the K’ómoks First Nation has asked for a 20 to 15 per cent harvest reduction.

“And the Islands Trust has unanimously called for a moratorium on the fishery until the whole eco-system-based approach is in place,” Johns said.

He notes that government has said it supports science- and evidence-based decision-making — but science indicates herring was over-harvested last year.

“The minister seems to be listening to the herring fishing industry and going against her own scientists by recommending 20 per cent to be killed this year,” Ian McAllister of Pacific Wild said in a news release. “Her scientists are saying to be precautionary. It should be 10 per cent. Who is the minister listening to?”

Phil Young of the Canadian Fishing Company (Canfisco) feels the 20 per cent harvest rate is conservative.

He expects a small number of boats to be fishing this year.

“I think the seines are quite worried about the size of the fish,” Young said. “One of the things in the new management plan that was announced was that there’s ability to move seine fish into gill net. This is the first time they’ve allowed this. I think quite a bit will go that way, just to get the roe herring size. Because with seine, you always run that risk.”

Two years ago, he recalls much of the seine catch being left in the water because the fish were too small.

“This year, all the survey data that’s done is based on spawning biomass, so that’s fish that are at least three years old. That’s probably too small for the market, so we probably won’t harvest it. You never know what the ocean survival will be. If it’s a preponderance of small fish, it’s highly unlikely we would take all of our seine quota.

“We have been managing this fishery since the ’70s very conservatively,” Young added. “We watched it rebuild after years of that reduction fishery in the first half of the century where they were just doing it for fish meal. Then they started managing it much more conservatively, and it rebuilt. The herring have been coming back for years and years. It’s grown. It’s in a cyclical downturn a bit, but it’s going to be interesting to see what happens this year. If all those two-year-olds come back, we’d be looking at another massive amount of herring in the straits. And then what does the argument become?”



reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

FishFisheries and Oceans Canada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

News Bulletin file photo
Wrong set of golf clubs given away outside Nanaimo thrift store

Family spreading word about mistake in hopes clubs might be returned to them

The Regional District of Nanaimo faces challenges with garbage bin replacement requests. (Michael Briones photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo faces challenges to meet requests for garbage bin replacements

Waste manager says RDN will have a surplus of 100-litre carts

Nanaimo RCMP are investigating after a hit-and-run incident outside the 7-Eleven store at University Village Mall Feb. 3. (Photo submitted)
UPDATE: Nanaimo RCMP speak to people of interest in hit-and-run investigation

Police continuing to investigate Feb. 3 incident in Harewood

(News Bulletin file)
Wellington, Ladysmith secondary schools latest with COVID-19 cases

NDSS and Bayview Elementary also experienced exposures, says SD68

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

The Regional District of Nanaimo’s board is forwarding a motion on illegal dumping to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities’ upcoming annual general meeting. (Kane Blake photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo motion seeks to ask province for help to combat illegal dumping

RDN resolution to be forwarded to Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, endangered orcas from the J pod swim in Puget Sound west of Seattle, as seen from a federal research vessel that has been tracking the whales. A new study from federal researchers provides the most detailed look yet at what the Pacific Northwest's endangered orcas eat. Scientists with the NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center spent years collecting fecal samples from the whales as well as scales from the fish they devoured. They say their data reaffirm the central importance of Chinook salmon to the whales. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Study reinforces importance of Chinook to Pacific Northwest orcas

Data confirms how central the big salmon are to the orca’s diet year-round

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

Most Read