Canada’s DFO Minister Cuts BC Commercial Herring Catch

Pacific Herring stock
A map of major and minor Pacific Herring stock and fishing areas. Image via Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Canadian fisheries officials, taking a long-term approach to boosting Pacific salmon stocks, have cut Pacific herring harvest rates for the Strait of Georgia to a 10% harvest rate, with a maximum total allowable catch of 7,850 tons.

Joyce Murray, minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced the updates in the federal Pacific herring coastwide harvest plan for 2021-22, noting that herring are a forage fish, an important food source to other key species like Pacific salmon, and a critical part of the Pacific coast ecosystem.

It is vital, DFO officials said, that Pacific herring are managed with an approach that supports fishing allocation where possible, and one that is consistent with the objectives of stock recovery, and the regeneration of this important species.

Maintaining a healthy herring stock is vital to the health of the ecosystem of coastal British Columbia, and this year’s harvest plan will continue to conserve, protect and regenerate herring stocks for the future, they said.

The Dec. 16 announcement came in the wake of an earlier DFO decision to reduce the allowable commercial harvest of Pacific salmon because of dramatically declining stocks of wild Pacific salmon, and the impact of floods and landslides on fish habitat in British Columbia.

DFO officials also said they would release a draft Integrated Fisheries Management Plan outlining the scientific projections and proposed management measures for the upcoming season, with the goal of providing sustainable fishing opportunities and increasing stock abundance.

In these extraordinary times, with the Pacific Coast reeling from natural disasters and the serious damage they have caused to Pacific salmon, “herring are vital to the health of our ecosystem, and the stocks are in a fragile state,” Murray said. “We must do what we can to protect and regenerate this important forage species.”