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

Mary Ellen Campbell, president of the Parksville Museum, visits the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PQBeat: A chat with Parksville Museum president Mary Ellen Campbell

Podcast: Talk includes plans for 2021, dealing with COVID-19 and more

Eaglecrest Golf Club plans to operate as a nine-hole course starting April 1. (Eaglecrest Facebook photo)
Eaglecrest Golf Club in Qualicum Beach still plans to have course layout reduced to 9 holes

Town council continues to negotiate lease for 18-hole operation

A rendering of a proposed housing development located across from the beachfront in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Multi-residential development planned across from Qualicum Beach waterfront

Residents raise variety of concerns about project

Proprietor of Sweet Truck, Morgan Ray, as she hands off her baked goods to a customer. (Photo courtesy of Avrinder Dhillon Photography)
COVID-19: Qualicum Beach baker eyes move back from food truck to bricks and mortar

Storefront offers more stability amid growth in sales: Ray

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Most Read