High-stakes herring fishery gamble
Monday, January 20, 2020, 19:40 (GMT + 9)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is gambling with a public resource when it comes to herring fishery management. Herring populations are so important yet so variable that managing them in a conventional way is too risky. Canada should be trying to keep as many herring in the ocean as possible, only harvesting them when nature provides a surplus. The usual practice of maximizing the catch while aiming to avoid a closure of the fishery is a bad wager.
These little silver fish nurture many animals in coastal waters. They create a key connection in the food webs between plankton and predators such as seabirds, seals, sea lions, spiny dogfish, salmon and whales.
This year, in response to an expected low herring return in the Strait of Georgia, Fisheries and Oceans drafted a plan to keep the harvest level at 20 per cent, the same level as when herring are abundant. Evidence over the past couple of years shows herring populations have fallen rapidly due to natural variation, which means precaution is required. The current assessment suggests there’s a one-in-four chance the stock will fall below the point when no fishing is permitted. Leading fisheries management agencies around the world have implemented rules for these types of scenarios to rein in the risk. Beginning this year, Fisheries and Oceans Canada must strive to do the same.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada SARs, as defined for Pacific herring (shaded) and for statistical areas associated with spawning and fishing off the coast of British Columbia (numbered 0 – 29). QCI, Queen Charlotte Islands; PRD, Prince Rupert District; CC, Central Coast; SOG, Strait of Georgia; WCVI, west coast of Vancouver Island (Source: J. F. Schweigert)
The department should exercise caution by reducing the harvest rate to no more than 10 per cent, consistent with an ecosystem-based management approach. A 2019 Fisheries and Oceans analysis of the herring population on the Vancouver Island west coast found “reduction in harvest rate from 20 per cent to 10 per cent was the most effective means of mitigating stock assessment errors by reducing the absolute size of the catch.”
Author: Scott Wallace/nationalobserver.com | Read full article here