Straight of Georgia Herring – One Step Closer to Extinction

For immediate release
December 19, 2019

Organization logos herring fishery

 

Straight of Georgia Herring – One Step Closer to Extinction

DFO moves to open controversial fishery

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has now released the 2020 management plan for Pacific herring, recommending a 20% harvest in the Strait of Georgia (SOG). This harvest rate follows the same management model which has contributed to a 60% decline in the Salish Sea and total fishery closures throughout the rest of coastal BC. If approved by the Fisheries Minister, the roe fishery will open in early March 2020, despite opposition from First Nations, conservation groups, business owners, and coastal communities.

“We are in a crisis situation when it comes to protecting our endangered wild salmon and southern resident killer whales yet DFO continues to strip mine the very foundation of their food supply,” said Ian McAllister, Executive Director of Pacific Wild. “It is incomprehensible that these new recommendations do not reflect ecosystem-based needs for the Salish Sea or the significant and growing public opposition that want the fishery closed.”

One of the mandates given to MP Bernadette Jordan by the Prime Minister upon her recent swearing in as Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is to ” Implement the recently modernized Fisheries Act, which … prioritizes rebuilding fish populations and incorporates modern safeguards so that fish and fish habitats are protected for future generations and Canada’s fisheries can continue to grow the economy and sustain coastal communities. The sustainability of our ocean resources remains paramount.” Is the Minister going to follow her mandate from the Prime Minister and allow this fishery to open?

Grant Scott of Conservancy Hornby Island has stated, “What shocks us is that DFO and the new Minister seem to be deaf to what the people of Canada and from around the world are saying about this incredible little fish.” 113,000 people signed an online petition to close the fishery, of which 20,000 are from BC, 60,000 from Canada and the rest from around the world.

MP Gord Johns, the NDP fisheries critic, asked the Fisheries Minister in the House of Commons in Ottawa to close the fishery. He also met with the new Minister and pointed out the vital importance of this fish, and has tabled a petition in the House of Commons, asking for an immediate suspension of commercial herring fisheries in the Strait of Georgia.

“As has happened to the cod on the east coast it seems that the only way this fishery will be shut down is by it being fished to extinction,” Locky MacLean of Sea Shepherd Conservation said. “Sadly this seems to be the only way DFO is able to manage fish stocks in Canada. The definition of insanity is doing the

same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. DFO’s management practices have resulted in 4 of the 5 major herring fisheries on the coast being closed. The SOG is the last. Is DFO going for 5 out of 5?”

BACKGROUND

  • The Minister of Fisheries will be asked to approve the IFMP, following a 30-day public consultation period, which is open until January 17, 2020. Comments may be provided in writing to Victoria Postlethwaite, Regional Herring Officer, at [email protected].
  • In the first two weeks of this year’s Food and Bait fishery, seiners were unable to catch any herring, which is highly unusual. This suggests fewer herring are migrating into the Strait of Georgia than in previous years, which is cause for alarm.
  • Fisheries and Oceans has conducted no research on the ecosystem impacts of the fishery, despite claiming they are managing for ecosystem needs. The response to an Access to Information request from Pacific Wild was, “Please note that the Fisheries Management branch and Science branch of our Pacific region [sic] advised us that they will be providing a Nil response … We have been advised that there is no other research that DFO has done regarding the impacts the commercial herring fishery has on southern resident killer whales.”
  • In 2019, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) biologists overestimated the number of herring in the Strait of Georgia by 30%, which caused overfishing by commercial fisheries.
  • Herring are 62% of the diet for Chinook salmon. In turn, this species of salmon is the main food source for critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.
  • MP for Courtenay-Alberni and NDP Fisheries Critic, Gord Johns, has tabled a written petition in the House of Commons, asking for an immediate suspension of commercial herring fisheries in the Strait of Georgia.


For further information, please contact:

Ian McAllister, Pacific Wild: 250-882-7246

Locky MacLean, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society: +1-310-733-9114

Grant Scott, Conservancy Hornby Island: 250-218-2323

Images of Pacific herring and the commercial roe fishery are available at https://bit.ly/2IZywdB.

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