Herring fishery

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Food and bait

In the fall and winter of each year, herring migrate to the inshore waters from the offshore summer feeding areas. Here, they spend the winter in the relatively shallow inlets and bays in preparation for spawning in the spring. The food and bait fishery focuses on these migratory stocks during the period between November and January when the fat concentration of the fish is greatest.

Roe herring

Roe herring are fished for their eggs. The harvested roe is considered a delicacy in Japan, which is the main market for this product. The fishery takes place as the herring gather to spawn during late February to early March in southern NC, and mid- March to mid-April in northern BC. Opening dates and times for the commercial fishery are announced on the fishing grounds once the roe has matured to optimum quality.

The commercial roe herring fishery occurs in five geographic areas determined by major herring stocks; Prince Rupert District, Central Coast, Haida Gwaii, West Coast of Vancouver Island, and Strait of Georgia. Specific fishing locations are determined by major concentrations of fish and the potential for the highest roe yield.

Spawn on kelp

In the Spawn on Kelp (SOK) fishery, the harvest is not of whole herring, but the eggs which have adhered to blades of kelp after herring have spawned. It is conducted by suspending lines of kelp where herring spawn, and may use either an open or a closed ponding technique.

SOK is a traditional food of BC coastal First Nations, which harvest SOK for food, social, and ceremonial purposes under the authority of communal licences. First Nations have traditionally harvested herring spawn using the open pond method on several types of kelp, eel grass, and tree branches.

The SOK fishery occurs in all of the major stock assessment areas for Pacific Herring except the Strait of Georgia, where there is a lack of suitable kelp.

Special use

In the special use herring fishery, herring are fished both for bait and for food for personal, recreational, and commercial use. The fishery primarily takes place in the Strait of Georgia, but can occur throughout the coast where areas are open to fishing activities as described in the IFMP.

The fishery is organized into five licence types, to accommodate for specific needs of the unique products of this fishery. All bait herring licences are party based, and must be designated to a registered commercial fishing vessel that is eligible for a vessel based commercial licence.