Seiners fill the waters between Comox and Nanoose Bay during roe herring fishery. file photo, Pacific Wild

Seiners fill the waters between Comox and Nanoose Bay during roe herring fishery. file photo, Pacific Wild

Quota debate heats up on the eve of Vancouver Island herring fishery

Industry and conservationists weigh in how much catch should be allowed as DFO decision coming soon

With the Vancouver Island herring roe fishery around the corner, some are calling for major cuts to catch quotas for this year.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is taking comments on its Integrated Fisheries Management Plan through Jan. 20 for the 2020/2021 season.

Jim Shortreed, a volunteer from Victoria who works on herring spawning enhancement says now is not the time to be catching the herring but rather allowing the population to rebuild.

“Let’s just let it get bigger, let it grow, let it spread out until it encompasses the entire Strait of Georgia again,” he says.

He cites a project in False Creek where the population has been able to rebuild with help from hanging nets in the waters or covered pilings to provide surfaces on which the herring lay their eggs. There are other positive developments, he adds, such as in the Sechelt area or Howe Sound.

RELATED STORY: The two sides of the Strait of Georgia roe herring fishery

RELATED STORY: Opponents call for closure of herring fishery in Strait of Georgia

What is at stake in his view is the last large herring population in the Pacific region, especially the stretch between the Nanaimo area and Baynes Sound near the Comox Valley.

“This is the last large spawning grounds of herring in the Strait of Georgia,” he says.

Last year, there were major spawns in the Qualicum Bay area and at the north end of Denman Island, but other areas Shortreed says have faced an ‘extinction’ of herring populations. He points to researchers such as Scott Wallace of the David Suzuki Foundation calling DFO to reduce the quotas from the standard 20 per cent of the fishery down to no more than 10 per cent. In an article, Wallace cited a 2019 Fisheries and Oceans analysis of herring on Vancouver Island saying the reduction in harvest rate from 20 per cent to 10 per cent is the best means of mitigating any stock assessment errors.

Another question is whether DFO might take part of the quota devoted for the herring roe fishery and move it to the fish and bait herring fishery period, which starts in the fall.

Shortreed says they did have some influence over the food and bait herring fishery last fall, as DFO removed one area in the Gulf Islands down to Active Pass from fishing.

He is not alone in opposing the commercial harvest. The group Conservancy Hornby Island is circulating a petition through Change.org calling for people to “say no” to the herring roe fishery. To back its case, the group points to severe declines and shutdowns of four commercial herring fisheries.

“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,” the group’s online petition says.

The commercial seafood industry takes a different view. One factor they point to is the regular fluctuation in the size of the herring fishery.

“These populations do go up and down,” says the Herring Conservation and Research Society’s Rob Morley. “The stocks have increased by about one-third over the last 10 years.”

He adds the herring spawn in 2020 was one of the largest in decades, even though DFO had forecast a decline. As well, he points out the quota only comes into play when the spawning biomass is large enough to permit the fishery.

Last year, he says, was a strong year with herring showing up in more areas and a large number of juveniles recruited into the spawning population, so he expects DFO will probably not reduce the quota after the comment period.

While he realizes the industry is not the size it once was, herring still generates about $40-50 million a year in export income for B.C., including revenue for related businesses. It also provides work during times of the year when other fisheries might be slow. On top of this, it has a one of the highest Indigenous participation rates of any fishery in B.C., he says, with 23 per cent of seine and 37 per cent of gill net licences owned by Indigenous individuals or communities.

“It’s still a very significant fishery,” Morley adds.

There is more information about DFO’s comment period at bit.ly/3if28l3



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

fishing

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

Eliot Kinsey runs T3ch For the People at Ladysmith Secondary. (Jennifer Fink photo)
High school student joins program to improve access to technology

By George Brockhurst, LSS Student Writer As the world moves forward, people… Continue reading

Lymphedema is often treated with medical devices such as compression garments, pneumatic compression pumps, or specialized custom wraps and bandages. (Submitted photo)
March 6 marks World Lymphedema Day

Lymphedema is caused by damage to the lymphatic system, and afflictings millions worldwide

Work has begun on the Downtown Public Washroom on 1st Avenue. (Submitted photo)
Work has begun on the Ladysmith Downtown Public Washroom

The project is expected to be finished in the spring

An architectural rendering of the five storey condo building at 201/203 Dogwood Drive. (BJK Architecture photo)
Five storey condo building proposal at Dalby’s proceeds to public hearing stage

Frank and Mike Crucil of FMC Holdings are hoping to turn Dalby’s Automotive into a five storey condo

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered to a personal support worker at the Ottawa Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Ottawa. Doctors in Alberta have signed an open letter asking for prioritized vaccination of health-care staff who work directly with patients on dedicated COVID-19 units. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID vaccines for seniors in B.C.: Here’s how to sign up

Seniors 90+, Indigenous seniors 65+ and Indigenous Elders can book starting March 8

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Most Read