DFO assessment of herring fishery needs a second look
The Pacific herring fishery isn't nearly as abundant and healthy as first thought. While archeological evidence seems to indicate consistently healthy herring fisheries along the British Columbia coast, recent Fisheries and Ocean Canada, or DFO, analysis shows quite the opposite.
Historical evidence dates back 2,500 years based n nearly 500,000 samples of fish bones collected from more than 170 First Nations site from Alaska to the state of Washington. It shows a picture of abundant and consistent herring populations.
However, Dana Lepofsky, Ken Lertzman, and Iain McKechnie in the DFO analysis said a baseline for typical herring populations should be started to coincide with development of large-scale commercial herring fishing in 1951. They said setting new baselines enabled science-based herring fisheries management to begin a fisheries recovery process.
“Where we see lots of herring today, we see lots of herring in the past, but also we show that there are places that have a lot of herring archeologically, where little herring is recorded today,” said McKechnie. “We used to have a much broader spawning population.”
The state of Pacific Ocean herring fisheries is tied into the fate of other fish and sea mammals. Factoring in climate change is key to understanding how to save fisheries from overfishing, analysts said. Overfishing is a problem threatening the future of commercial interests and now causing tension between commercial interests and First Nations peoples.
Federal fisheries ministry officials in 2006 closed some herring fishing areas due to concerns about depleting fisheries. DFO's study was designed to address that issue. Gail Shea, federal fisheries minister, said last December that three fishery areas on Vancouver Island's west cost could be reopened because stocks had risen. The Nuu-chah-nulth pepple disagreed with assessment saying stocks needed to be rebuilt before commercial fishing resumed.
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DFO assessment of herring fishery based on broken ecosystem, study finds