There were lots of herring swimming the Salish Sea this year, but they were small and of relatively low value, according to Greg Thomas from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The co-ordinator for Pacific herring for the DFO said the fishery was suspended at the end of last week.
“We had a lot of fish in the gulf this year but they were small,” he said. “It looks like we had a good recruitment of first-year spawners and they are small, relative to the older fish — and that means a relatively small size, which is not good for the fishing industry. They are looking for larger fish with larger roe.”
This year’s spawn, he said, was a big one however, stretching from north of Comox to the top end of Gabriola Island, although he conceded there were some bare patches.
Overall, the gillnet fishery did the best this year, coming close to their targeted catch, pulling in 4,500 tons out of a quota of 4,850 tons. The seine fleet wasn’t so fortunate, harvesting about 3,500 tons out of a total quota of about 6,700 tons.
“The seiners chose not to take their full quota because of the relatively small fish size and the lower value of the fish,” he said.
Although not all the fishermen will be happy with this year’s catch, Thomas said it bodes well for the future of the herring stock and the fishery.
“There certainly was substantial abundance and that’s a good sign for the future,” he said.
“In a year or two, when the mean size of these fish increases, it will be a more lucrative fishery — unless we have another boom in young recruitment like we saw this year, but we usually don’t see these kinds of recruitments two years in a row.”
Overall, he said the DFO had forecast a return of about 150,000 tons of herring this year and they are in the process of assessing how accurate their prediction was, so they can make a prediction for next year’s quota.