Herring egg harvest has re-opened, after a small group of people contracted Vibrio cholerae infections last March. (File photo)

Herring egg harvest has re-opened, after a small group of people contracted Vibrio cholerae infections last March. (File photo)

DFO releases final herring plan for 2021

Strait of Georgia harvest rate remains at 20 per cent, two areas still closed

The region’s harvest rate for herring has been 20 per cent for years, it was 20 per cent in the draft plan for 2020/2021 and it will remain 20 per cent.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) held a news conference on Feb. 19 to announce the release of its Pacific Herring Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) for the year.

“Our government understands the need to protect the health and sustainability of coastal British Columbia’s herring stock, which is a forage fish vital to the entire ecosystem. After rigorous scientific stock assessments the results demonstrate a healthy and stable herring stock in the Strait of Georgia, which has been consistent for the past decade. We are applying the precautionary approach to ensure the long term viability of herring for our ocean ecosystems and harvesters alike,” Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan said in a news release.

The final plan updates the draft plan put together in the fall. The department goes through this process each year, which includes a period of roughly a month for public comment starting late in the calendar year and running into January.

Neil Davis, the director of resource management, outlined the process of putting the plan together, which includes using computer simulations to assist with forecasting stock numbers.

“The conservation of stocks is really job one for us,” he said.

While conservationists had called for cuts to the harvest rate for the upcoming herring fishery in the Strait of Georgia, even a moratorium, with the aim of letting stocks rebuild, DFO held to the 20 per cent rate. Advocates of reducing the harvest rate have said the stock in this region is the last major one remaining in the north Pacific.

RELATED STORY: Some want quota cuts to herring fishery around Baynes Sound

RELATED STORY: Hornby Island group wants roe herring moratorium

Davis pointed out the harvest rate is a set percentage, with the actual harvest numbers fluctuating depending on the size of the spawning biomass. In the draft plan, DFO forecast a spawning biomass of 90,250 tons, with a range of 49,082-171,498 tons, for the Strait of Georgia. The commercial fishery is for food and bait, roe and special use.

In two other areas, the Central Coast and the Prince Rupert District, there will be smaller scale, spawn-on-kelp commercial fisheries. The harvest rate is set at five per cent.

As well, two other areas will be closed to fisheries, the West Coast of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii.

“We’ve had closures in those areas for a number of years,” Davis said.

He added that an area such as the West Coast of Vancouver Island is not ready for commercial fishing, though there has been some improvement over the last 15 years.

“There’s been a gradual uptick, so that is good news,” he said.

SOME QUICK FACTS FROM DFO

  • Food and Bait and Special Use fisheries opened on Nov. 20, 2020 in the Strait of Georgia with an initial total allowable catch of 1,905 tonnes for the Food and Bait fishery and 818 tonnes for the Special Use fishery. This initial allocation was increased on December 30, 2020 to 3,720 tonnes. These fisheries provide herring to a variety of markets, including for human consumption.
  • DFO has finalized the following maximum harvest levels for the 2020-21 season in the major stock areas: Central Coast: 1,760 tonnes, representing a five per cent harvest rate; Prince Rupert District: 910 tonnes, representing a five per cent harvest rate; Strait of Georgia: 16,330 tonnes, representing at 20 per cent harvest rate; West Coast Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii: closed to commercial fisheries. Last year, the Strait of Georgia stock allocation was 20%, this year it remains consistent and stable at 20 per cent.


mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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