Only 12% of caught Pacific herring is processed for human consumption. In the herring roe fishery, eggs are removed from the female fish and are exported to Japan as a delicacy. The popularity of herring roe is declining, resulting in decreased demand and economic value. Domestically, herring is used for human consumption in pickled herring and fish oil supplements.
The remaining 88% of herring caught is used for non-human consumption in the bait fishery and reduction fishery. In 2019, the reduction fishery saw more than 18,000 tonnes of herring reduced to fishmeal and fish oil which predominantly goes to feed farmed salmon in Canada and around the world.
While the value of local herring has decreased, it continues to be exported. As the economic value of herring decreases and local herring continues to be exported overseas, the cultural, social, and ecological systems that rely on herring as a foundation species are struggling. The impact that mismanagement of the commercial herring fishery is having on Southern Resident Killer Whales, salmon and Indigenous fishing rights is concerning.
DFO continues to allow herring to be fed to farmed salmon when our wild salmon stocks rely heavily on herring and are also diminishing. Protecting herring in order to protect our wild salmon, our orcas and our humpback whales should be the priority, rather than harvesting herring to be processed and exported.