Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Operation Backbone: Pacific Herring – Small Fish, Big Problem

Operation Backbone: Pacific Herring – Small Fish, Big Problem


To look at what’s truly unique about Hornby and Denman, you’ve got an incredible abundance
of wildlife that comes here because of the herring. Hundreds of thousands of birds come here and await the herring themselves and their eggs. We lived in Bamfield over on the west coast, we knew the DFO was allowing the huge amount of seine boats to come in and overfish them and they’re gone. 90% of that herring biomass is ground up into fish food for the fish farm industry, which we think is a travesty. In the waters along Canada’s Pacific coast, in the Gulf of Georgia in the channels between
Vancouver Island and the mainland, the fleets of the fishing companies compete
for a share of the catch. It’s a chancy venture, governed by regulations and quotas, so that a year of plenty will not be
followed by a year of famine. DFO has stated that the 2019 quota
was set based on a predicted return of 122,291 tonnes of herring biomass, but only 85,700 tonnes returned. Fisheries ended catching 25% of the population, exceeding the 20% harvest quota once again. The four other herring populations in BC
have already collapsed, due to overfishing. It’s very likely the Department of Fisheries and Oceans overestimated the North Atlantic cod, right up to the moment there was
a moratorium in the early 90s. So we know this can happen, that they over estimate spawning biomass
and they believe in it. There’s fish on paper, but there’s not fish in the sea. Additional data disclosed by DFO forecasts that not only will fewer fish be returning, but the population will consist of smaller and younger fish with lower reproductive capacity. Herring once spawned throughout the
Strait of Georgia and Johnston Strait, but only one area of spawn remains, located between Qualicum Beach and Comox. In their management approach DFO does not address the severely reduced geographic range and historical abundance of herring in the Strait of Georgia. Our measure of what is abundant is totally subjective. It has to be informed by some sort of anchor in the past where the abundance were higher. People always work on data if they are scientists,
from the last 20 years. The scientists that worked before,
also had their own 20 years. So if you add up all the 20 years
and the decline that took place, you’ll notice that people do not
take account of the decline that have taken place before their career began. Department of Fisheries and Oceans,
The Federal Government, they have the legal responsibility
for managing fish in our oceans. They manage it, under their management
plan for herring under what they call precautionary principles and ecosystem
based management and risk aversion. We talked to ex-fishermen,
we talked to DFO scientists themselves and they don’t even believe their own story,
that’s what amazes me. The fishers used to earn 5,000 dollars a tonne for their fish, now they earn as little as 300 dollars a tonne. It’s time we did something about it and it’s time we stopped clear cutting the ocean and it’s up to us to see that this happens. We need to absolutely reduce the herring catch, the herring quota is too high, they’re basically mining the oceans for herring
and it’s very dangerous. It isn’t the case that the management
of herring has taken into account the varying ocean conditions that we humans have created on top of whatever happens cyclically. And also that there’s a huge shift
in the number of predators, the humpbacks, the sea lions,
we get second a chance with them and all of that is being fuelled by herring. Without it the whole marine ecosystem
for the Strait of Georgia would founder because it relies on this one herring run each year to stoke and fuel the whole marine food web. When you see the biomass of herring
around Hornby this time of year I think everybody realises or should, we need to preserve that in order to make sure that these top predators can continue to thrive in these waters. The reason people come here is to see the wildlife and the species that rely on this healthy ecosystem. By taking a risk of fishing a herring industry
with low economic return, it’s really putting thousands and thousands of jobs at risk. It just doesn’t make sense. Those forage fish are key to us protecting
our endangered chinook species and of course, the Southern Resident killer whales. The herring that spawn here are dependable. They’ve always come here and they always will if given a chance. The vast majority of the people
on Hornby and Denman Islands and in the North Central Salish Sea, want to see this herring roe fishery stopped, or severely reduced. There’s no good reason to continue
killing this crucial species. In the last 4 years almost 60% of the herring biomass has disappeared in the Strait of Georgia dwindling down from 130,000 metric tonnes in 2016 to an estimated 54,000 tonnes next year in 2020. How long can this go on before
the herring never return again?

8 comments on “Operation Backbone: Pacific Herring – Small Fish, Big Problem

  1. B.C is broke. They are desperate for money and business. Government officials no better than U.S. Extractive industries have more money than necessary to ensure the death of the Northwest oceans. This will not end good.

  2. Save our world..speacially our ocean cause ocean is a part of our life which God's created for our wealth..we are stand with you our hero..πŸ™πŸ™πŸ™..God bless

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