Fisheries and Oceans Canada released it's 2021 Pacific Herring Integrated Fisheries Management Plan Feb. 19. (File photo)

Northern herring opportunities kept to a minimum

2021 management plan caps Prince Rupert fishery at 5 per cent

DFO released its 2021 Pacific Herring Integrated Fisheries Management Plan Feb. 19, indicating opportunities will remain minimal on the north and central coast this year.

The release finalizes a draft plan from the fall after 30 days of public consultations.

The commercial harvest this year is again closed on Haida Gwaii. Even in the absence of fishing, the biomass is forecasted to be 14 per cent below conservation targets. A rebuilding plan is being developed with draft consultations expected early this year.

As with Haida Gwaii, the West Coast of Vancouver Island is also closed to commercial harvest.

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“We’ve had closures in those areas for a number of years,” Neil Davis, DFO director of resource management said during a teleconference with press. “The conservation of stocks is really job one for us.”

In the Prince Rupert District, First Nations fisheries and commercial spawn on kelp opportunities are being held to 1,003 tonnes, or five per cent. The stock’s biomass and growth has remained steady, but low since 2005.

On the Central Coast, First Nations and commercial spawn on kelp opportunities are also being kept at five per cent of the harvest rate, or 1,865 tonnes. The stock has shown a steady increase in spawning biomass since a low in the late 2000s.

In the south, DFO faced mounting pressure from conservation groups to close Strait of Georgia commercial fishery, or restrict the harvests to a maximum of 10 per cent.

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Many view this as the last large herring population in the Pacific region, but DFO kept the harvest rate at the same level as last year, 20 per cent.

A 2019 Fisheries and Oceans analysis of herring in the Straight of Georgia notes a reduction from 20 per cent to 10 per cent is the best means of mitigating any stock assessment errors.

However herring spawn in 2020 was one of the largest in decades for the strait, even though DFO had forecast a decline. It was also a strong year with herring showing up in more areas and a large number of juveniles recruited into the spawning population.

Recreational harvest of herring may occur coast wide, year-round. The daily maximum sport limit for herring is 20 kg, with a two-day possession limit of 40 kg.

– with files from Mike Chouinard