Conservationists warn of catastrophe for herring


A change in the Strait of Georgia herring fishery could be catastrophic for resident herring populations, conservationists say.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is transferring some of the annual herring allocation from the spring roe fishery to a winter food and bait fishery, but that could mean the resident herring population will be caught along with the migratory populations, said Chris Genovali, executive director of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

“A fishery at this time and in this region could have catastrophic consequences for resident herring as well as for other marine species that rely on these fish,” Genovali said in a letter to federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield.

“We question whether the DFO has the authority to authorize the collapse of resident herring populations,” said Genovali, who wants more public and scientific scrutiny.

Herring fisheries in areas such as the Haida Gwaii and the west coast of Vancouver Island have been closed for about a decade because stocks collapsed and risks should not be taken with resident herring stocks, especially as little is known about them, Raincoast biologist Caroline Fox said.

Herring feed many of B.C.’s iconic species such as chinook salmon, which, in turn, are the primary food of resident killer whales.

“They underpin the marine food web. They are critical forage fish for Gray whales, humpbacks, sealions and seabirds,” Fox said.

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