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e-2342 (Fisheries)

Initiated by Catherine Gray from Hornby Island, British Columbia

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) announced that the Pacific herring population dropped by approximately 1/3 between 2016 and 2019, and will drop by more than 50% by 2020;
  • The unexpected drop in the herring population has led to overfishing of existing stock;
  • Pacific herring is the basis of the food web that supports salmon, killer and humpback whales, cod and halibut, seabirds and other independent species on the Pacific Coast; and
  • First Nations have constitutionally protected rights to herring which are an important food source and an integral part of First Nations cultures.
We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to:
1. Suspend the 2020 Salish Sea herring fishery until a whole ecosystem plan is developed;
2. Fairly compensate fishers for economic losses; and
3. Ensure that decisions are made with the full participation of First Nations and local communities.

Response by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Bernadette Jordan

The Government of Canada is committed to effectively managing Pacific herring fisheries through evidence-based decisions, ensuring the health and sustainability of these stocks into the future. We share your view that Pacific herring is an important source of food for many species on the Pacific coast and recognize that herring is an integral part of First Nations’ culture and that First Nations have priority access to herring for food, social, and ceremonial purposes, after conservation.

Pacific herring are a forage fish species and as such, have large fluctuations in abundance, so a decline in biomass is not unexpected. Biomass forecasts are highly uncertain due to factors such as environmental conditions and predation, which vary from year to year. Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO) harvest management approach is designed to account for this variability. The performance of this approach has been evaluated by DFO Science and subjected to scientific peer review through a process involving consultation between First Nations, fishery managers, scientists and industry stakeholders. The approach is designed to be very likely to avoid spawning biomass levels below an established limit reference point.

Since the 2019-20 stock assessment shows that herring biomass in the Strait of Georgia is well above the limit reference point, the harvest level for the 2019-20 Strait of Georgia herring fishery was set at 10,895 metric tonnes, which was 20 per cent of the forecasted spawning biomass. This harvest level is considered precautionary, as it leaves 80 per cent of mature herring and all juvenile herring to support population and ecosystem processes such as food for salmon and marine mammals. The 2019-20 harvest level was reduced from previous years as a result of the lower biomass forecast.  This reduced allowable catch is consistent with the conservation goals of the management approach and provides opportunity for industry, including those First Nations that participate in the commercial fishery.The approach outlined above is detailed in the 2019-20 Pacific Herring Integrated Fisheries Management Plan, which was developed following consultations with First Nations’ communities and organizations, and stakeholders such as commercial harvesters. The consultation process ensures that fishery management decisions are transparent, made with the best available science and informed by Indigenous, commercial harvester, and public considerations.

Open for signature
December 13, 2019, at 10:27 a.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
March 12, 2020, at 10:27 a.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Gord Johns (Courtenay—Alberni)
June 17, 2020 (Petition No. 431-00284)
Government response tabled
September 24, 2020
Photo - Gord Johns
New Democratic Party Caucus
British Columbia