Say NO to the Pacific Herring Roe Fishery

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Update January 1, 2021: DFO has announced their plan to again kill 20% of the herring in the Strait of Georgia this year. 

After years of overfishing, the Pacific herring population dwindled from approximately 129,500 metric tonnes in 2016, to 85,700 tonnes in 2019, to 54,242 tonnes in 2020. This is a reduction of almost 60 percent in four years

In November 2020, Oceana Canada's 2020 Fishery audit downgraded Pacific herring from "healthy" to "cautious". 

Due to severe declines, four of the other commercial herring fisheries have already shut down in B.C. The Strait of Georgia is home to the last large population, but it is being pushed to the brink. We simply cannot risk the complete collapse of this foundational species. They are the framework of coastal ecosystems and play a crucial role in feeding a wide variety of species.

Please add your voice for these #BIGLittleFish and share this opportunity broadly. Together, we can help shut this fishery down. 

Pacific herring is the basis for the food web that supports the salmon, killer whales and most of the other mammals, seabirds and other creatures who, with us, call this place home. 80% of the chinook salmons' diet is herring, and over 80% of the endangered southern resident killer whales' diet is chinook.

The herring fishery is worth little money and produces few jobs. 30 years ago the fishermen got as much as $5000 a ton for the fish, now it is as low as $150 and maybe $700 in a good year. A new UBC study has now shown that the long-term economic benefits of rebuilding Pacific herring stocks could outweigh the short-term losses. The study found that the estimated economic gains could be up to 11 times higher than the status quo under the most optimistic rebuilding scenario, and five times above the status quo under the least optimistic (Ocean & Coastal Management, September 2020).  

The Japanese market for herring roe has changed and herring are now worth more in the water. Times change and yet DFO keeps allowing this outdated fishery to carry on. Even worse, 90% of the herring are ground up for fish farm food and pet food. Using wild fish for non-human consumption is illegal under the federal Fisheries Act. And the herring fishery is supporting the salmon farms that are killing our wild salmon. 

DFO states that management will be guided by the principles of “Ecosystem Based Management" and "Risk Aversion" and "Precautionary Principle" yet DFO management has, in the last 20 years, resulted in the closure of 4 of the 6 major herring fisheries on the BC coast due to low herring biomass. Recently a report from Dr. John Neilson, a former Scientist Emeritus at DFO, and former Co-Chair of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), concluded that current protection measures for the Strait of Georgia herring are inadequate and will not prevent further decline of the species. How can we trust that DFO is managing this valuable public resource in the best interests of all of us and our marine ecosystem?

The last remaining major Pacific Herring spawn from Washington State to Alaska is in the northern Strait of Georgia from Nanaimo to Comox. Wouldn’t it make sense to leave this stock alone to hopefully rebuild all the herring schools on our coast and the marine life that need them for survival? Dr Daniel Pauly, UBC Killam Professor and international Fisheries Expert stated "we are operating at the edge of sustainability and a collapse will happen. The (academic) advice to DFO would be don’t fish it for a few years so that it will bounce back”

Please sign this petition now to send your concerns to the politicians who can stop this unsustainable fishery. We hope our Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, MP Bernadette Jordan, will listen! Then write to the following people who can make this happen: 

The most effective communication with politicians is by personal letter or email. Please use the points above to write your letter (no postage needed for House of Commons addresses) and/or email to:

MP Bernadette Jordan, Minister, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
House of Commons, Ottawa, Ont. K1A 0A6 1.888.816.4446

MP Gord Johns, NDP Critic for Fisheries, Oceans and Coast Guard
House of Commons, Ottawa, Ont. K1A 0A6 (250) 947-2140

To find out more facts about this issue and how you can help, please visit Conservancy Hornby Island.

Photo credit: Ian McAllister: