The Declining Economic Value of Pacific Herring

Herring fishers are making a fraction of what they made decades ago, for the same quantity of fish. Not only has the price of herring declined, but herring populations throughout B.C. have displayed a long term decline in size-at-age, making them less desirable to fishers.

Cover image by Kali Wexler

Due to this drop in fish value and increase in licensing costs, fishers aren’t singularly profiting off of the fishery or fishing independently. Instead, large corporations (e.g. the Jim Pattison Group who own about 15% of all licenses in B.C.) and “armchair” fishers (those who own licenses but do not materially participate in the fishery) buy the seine and gillnet licenses, and processing facilities. They then lease their licenses to fishers who will then sell their catch back to the license owners. With corporations such as the Jim Pattison Group owning 228 herring roe licenses, they are cornering the market making it extremely challenging for independent fishers to compete. Prohibitive costs of license and equipment ownership and low fish value leaves many fishers with no choice but to fish for corporations, making them vulnerable to lease rates and fluctuations in pricing. We urge DFO to take the bureaucracy out of fisheries and put the licenses back into the hands of independent fishers—helping both the economy and the sustainability of the fishery.


  • BC Ministry of Finance and Corporate Relations
  • BC Ministry of Agriculture
  • A review of factors limiting recovery of Pacific herring stocks in Canada (ICES Journal of Marine Science)

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