Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced the closure of the commercial harvest of herring spawn on kelp (SOK) in the Central Coast. The SOK fishery is a traditional method of fishing that harvests herring eggs which stick onto kelp blades after the herring spawn. It is a no-kill method, unlike other commercial methods that harvest the whole fish for their roe. For the Heiltsuk people, SOK has been the cornerstone of their diet and ceremonies for thousands of years and many communities rely on this fishery as a main economic driver.
DFO’s decision was made in hopes that it would help support more sustainable fishing opportunities and increase stock abundance that would benefit the entire ecosystem. The Heiltsuk Nation is typically part of a collaborative and bilateral management partnership with DFO to discuss the fishing practices that occur on the Central Coast. This recent decision, however, came as a surprise and was not a part of discussions.
Back in December, Pacific Wild responded to the draft Integrated Fisheries Management Plan for Pacific herring. It is concerning that commercial fishing methods, like seining and gillnetting, are open in the Strait of Georgia while Spawn-on-Kelp (SOK) operations are closed throughout the entire coast. SOK fisheries are a sustainable method of harvesting and should not be suffering while gillnetters and seiners continue to profit. Read our full response here.
In the 2022 IFMP, this harvest rate was reduced to 10 percent of total available biomass. Although the reduction in catch tonnage is an excellent step in the right direction, we hope to push for more ecosystem-based management in all major commercial fisheries. Pacific Wild will continue to advocate for a full moratorium on the last remaining herring roe fishery until there is scientific evidence of stabilizing and recovery in the population.