While advocates for reducing the Vancouver Island herring fishery have applauded DFO’s recent decision to cut the harvest rate this year, they see it as only a first step.
Conservancy Hornby Island has long advocated for more measures to protect the herring stock in the Strait of Georgia, saying the other four major herring fisheries on the West Coast have had to be shut down.
Minister of Fisheries Joyce Murray announced in December the maximum harvest level for the 2021-22 season is 7,850 tonnes, or a 10 per cent harvest rate. CHI sees the lower rate as a start.
“We think that’s great,” says CHI’s Grant Scott. “That’s slowing down the harvest, but it’s not rebuilding the stocks…. Where’s the plan to rebuild the stocks to their historic highs?”
CHI also points to U.S. studies showing there is an additional herring population to consider — a resident group of smaller herring facing pressures from commercial fishing that are not included in DFO calculations.
“There’s actually resident stocks that stay here year-round,” he said.
These are the points the CHI will be making in a submission to DFO during the comment period for the current draft of the Integrated Fisheries Management Plant (IFMP). The comment period ends later this month.
The fishing industry, meanwhile, took a different view of the DFO announcement in December, releasing a statement that it was “shocked and devastated” by the announcement to half the herring harvest rate from 20 per cent down to 10 per cent.
“Fisheries management decisions should be based on solid peer-reviewed science, not the number of signatures on a petition,” Herring Conservation and Research Society’s Rob Morley said in a news release.
The release points out the industry contributes about $40 million a year to the coastal economy and supports harvesters, processors, communities and First Nations, which hold about 40 per cent of the herring quota.
Morley further rejected the notion the decision will mean more herring for salmon to eat, saying the salmon eat juvenile herring, not the adult herring.
The BC Seafood Alliance’s Christina Burridge added the industry had made repeated requests to meet with Murray prior to the decision but did not even receive acknowledgment of the requests. She added they wanted to communicate the economic consequences of a decision they feel is not based on science.
“It’s simple: we fish when the science says we can, and we do not when the science says we should not,” she said in the release. “This is a breach of faith that will come back to haunt DFO.”