Fisheries Minister Discards Science in Pacific Herring in the Strait of Georgia Decision

VANCOUVER, BCDec. 16, 2021 /CNW/ – “Shocked and devastated,” says the Herring Conservation and Research Society’s Rob Morley of Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray’s decision to reduce the harvest rate on Pacific herring in the Strait of Georgia to 10% from the long-standing, science-validated 20%. “Fisheries management decisions should be based on solid peer-reviewed science not the number of signatures on a petition.” To make matters worse, he added, “DFO will take 85% of the likely landed value in seine licence fees that were set in the 1970s.  How are harvesters supposed to make a living?”

Minister Murray’s decision will reduce the harvest in the Strait of Georgia to 7,850 tonnes from 15,700 tonnes despite the fishery being in DFO’s “healthy” zone.  Morley explains that the 20% harvest control rule was both conservative and precautionary based on peer-reviewed science by both DFO and external experts. “The fishery has all the hallmarks of good fisheries management—solid stock assessment going back decades, a conservative harvest control rule and effective monitoring and enforcement.”

The BC Seafood Alliance’s Christina Burridge said “I and my members made repeated requests to meet with Minister Murray before her decision.  We didn’t even get an acknowledgment of those requests,” adding that those requests communicated the economic consequences of a decision not based on science. “It’s simple: we fish when the science says we can, and we do not when the science says we should not. This is a breach of faith that will come back to haunt DFO.”

HCRS’ Rob Morley says that the Minister’s justification that 10% harvest rate will provide more food for salmon is nonsense, “salmon eat juvenile herring of which there are hundreds of billions, not primarily adult herring.” Decreasing the quota will not increase the stock abundance for herring or salmon.

Statistics Canada data show that Pacific herring contributes about $40 million to the BC coastal economy each year and is vital to harvesters, processors and the communities they support to help maintain year-round operations. On top of that, over 40% of the herring quota is First Nations owned. “Minister Murray’s political decision will make a miserable Christmas for fish harvesters and fish plant workers, many Indigenous, who will now have no jobs. The Grinch strikes again.”

The Herring Conservation and Research Society was established to support conservation and management of Pacific herring and sustainable herring fisheries.

The BC Seafood Alliance is the largest commercial fishing organization on the West Coast.  Full members are associations that represent the owners and operators of commercially licenced fishing vessels in most major fisheries in BC and most of the major wild seafood processors.

SOURCE BC Seafood Alliance

For further information: Rob Morley, Herring Conservation and Research Society, 604.612.4758, [email protected]; Christina Burridge, BC Seafood Alliance, +1.604.377.9213, [email protected]

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