Pacific herring 2017 to 2018
Integrated Fisheries Management Plan summary

Download a PDF version of this Management Plan Summary

The purpose of this Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) summary is to provide a brief overview of the information found in the full IFMP. This document also serves to communicate the basic information on the fishery and its management to DFO staff, legislated co-management boards and other stakeholders. This IFMP provides a common understanding of the basic “rules” for the sustainable management of the fisheries resource. The full IFMP is available on request.

This IFMP summary is not a legally binding instrument which can form the basis of a legal challenge. The IFMP can be modified at any time and does not fetter the Minister's discretionary powers set out in the Fisheries Act. The Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify any provision of the IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

Where DFO is responsible for implementing obligations under land claims agreements, the IFMP will be implemented in a manner consistent with these obligations. In the event that an IFMP is inconsistent with obligations under land claims agreements, the provisions of the land claims agreements will prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.

Pacific herring

Pacific herring

General introduction/overview - IFMP section 1

The 2017/18 Pacific Herring Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) encompasses the period of November 7, 2017 to November 6, 2018. This IFMP provides a broad context to the management of the Pacific Herring fishery and the interrelationships of all fishing sectors involved in this fishery.

Pacific Herring (Clupea pallasii) is a pelagic species which occurs in inshore and offshore waters of the North Pacific (Figure 1). In the eastern Pacific waters, Pacific Herring are found from Baja California to the Beaufort Sea in Alaska. The Pacific Herring (Clupea pallasii) fishery started in British Columbia in the 19th century, and became the major fishery after the collapse of Pacific Sardine in the late 1940s. Today most Pacific Herring are fished for roe, which is sold in Japan. The remainder of the commercial fisheries is divided between spawn on kelp production and the food and bait market.

Map of Pacific Herring major and minor stock and fishing areas
Figure 1: Map of Pacific Herring major and minor stock and fishing areas

Stock assessment, science and traditional knowledge - IFMP section 2

Stock assessment

Pacific Herring are currently managed in five major and two minor stock areas (Figure 1). Accordingly, catch and survey information is collected independently for each of these seven areas, and DFO science advice is provided on the same scale.

Since the early 1980’s, a statistical catch-age model has been used to provide stock assessment advice for the major stock areas (Haist and Stocker 1984). In 2006, the catch-age model was updated in a Bayesian framework as the herring catch age model (HCAM, Haist and Schweigert 2006), used for the 2006 through 2010 stock assessments with additional modifications (Christensen et al. 2009, Cleary and Schweigert 2011). A new version of the model was introduced in 2011. This integrated statistical catch age model (ISCAM, Martell et al. 2012) has been used for stock assessment from 2011-2017. For the 2017 assessment, minor updates were made to the analytical procedures within ISCAM to bring the assessment in line with best practices.

The precautionary approach is one component of the Sustainable Fisheries Framework and precautionary limits are established to ensure that harvest proceeds in a sustainable manner and that sufficient biomass is available to replenish the stocks on an ongoing basis. The 20% harvest rate for Pacific Herring was introduced in 1983 and commercial fishing thresholds or cut-off levels were added in 1986. The 20% harvest rate is based on an analysis of stock dynamics, which indicates this level will stabilize both catch and spawning biomass while foregoing minimum yield over the long term (Hall et al. 1988, Zheng et al. 1993). The commercial cut-off levels are established at 25% of the unfished spawning biomass, as determined by simulation analyses. Stock assessment areas are recommended to be closed to commercial harvest when the stock is forecast to be below the cut-off levels. Cut-off levels, estimated as 0.25SB0, have been revised from time to time.

The Centre for Science Advice Pacific (CSAP) has reviewed the biological basis for target exploitation rate, considering both the priority of assuring conservation of the resource and allowing sustainable harvesting opportunities (Schweigert and Ware 1995).

DFO Fisheries Management requested science advice to inform the identification of Limit Reference Points (LRPs) for Pacific Herring. In response to this request, DFO Science Branch led the development of a peer reviewed paper on LRPs for Pacific Herring “The Selection and Role of Limit Reference Points for Pacific Herring (Clupea pallasii) in British Columbia, Canada” (Kronlund et al., 2017). A CSAS peer-review meeting occurred in February 2017. The outcome of the research and the CSAS process was support for the recommendation of a spawning biomass-based LRP of 0.3SB0 (unfished spawning biomass) for all five major stocks. Kronlund et al. (2017) recommended phasing-in of any new management procedure (i.e., changes to data collection, stock assessment models and/or harvest control rules) designed to avoid 0.3SB0 LRP and achieve targets in order to mitigate short-term consequences to resource users.

DFO Fisheries Management requested Science Branch assess the status of BC herring stocks in 2017 and provide projections of potential herring abundance for 2018 to inform the development of the annual Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP).

In response to this request, a Research Document and Science Advisory Report (SAR), Stock Assessment and Management Advice for BC Pacific Herring: 2017 Status and 2018 Forecast, was completed in October 2017. The 2017 assessment presents current estimates of spawning biomass for each major stock relative to the LRP. The report included abundance forecasts and analysis using both AM1 and AM2 formulations of the assessment model. Based on this analysis and a range of factors (e.g. current level of uncertainty in herring assessments, ongoing work to renew the management framework), DFO has used the historical assessment model (AM2) as the basis for fisheries planning for the 2017-18 season, including the management approach and proposed harvest levels outlined in this IFMP.

The full report will be published on the DFO website:

Ecosystem interactions

At this time, there is no information available on the appropriate conservation limits for Pacific Herring based on ecosystem considerations. It is recognized that herring plays a critical, foundational role in the ecosystem and are a food source for a variety of important species, including seabirds and chinook salmon. The current maximum harvest rate of 20% under the herring management framework is believed to be conservative as juveniles and a significant proportion of the adult population remain available to support ecosystem processes. Recent research indicates that the interplay of food supply and predation impacts on herring survival and production is complex and not readily predictable (Schweigert et al. 2010). Research is ongoing to better understand these ecosystem processes and the role Pacific Herring play in maintaining the integrity and functioning of the ecosystem.

Indigenous Traditional Knowledge / Traditional Ecological Knowledge

First Nations provide information to DFO on Pacific Herring behavior, spawn timing, abundance, ecosystem relationships, and fishing methods, based on their historic and cultural knowledge of the species and of their local areas. This information sharing contributes to the base of knowledge regarding fish behavior, spawn timing, and abundance.

Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) in the form of observations and comments provided by members of the public, and DFO staff contribute to the base of knowledge regarding Pacific Herring behavior, spawn timing, and abundance. Fishery participants provide information to DFO on herring behaviour, spawn timing, abundance, ecosystem relationships and fishing methods, based on their historic and cultural knowledge of the species and of the areas harvested.

Economic, social and cultural importance - IFMP section 3

Pacific Herring has been an important species for British Columbia’s commercial fisheries for over 100 years. They are harvested in the roe, spawn on kelp, food and bait, and special use fisheries, creating employment and contributing significantly to revenue generated from fisheries in BC. The herring fisheries are also extremely important to BC First Nations, both commercially and as traditional food.

BC herring products are predominantly sold to Japan. Other markets of notable significance are China and the US. In recent years, some harvesters have experienced a challenging business environment due to increased competition for export markets and waning international demand. The remainder of section 3 of the IFMP is a brief socioeconomic profile that provides a snapshot of 2014 viability and market trends, processing and exporting, as well as employment capacity related to herring, and will be updated in the future.

Shared stewardship arrangements - IFMP section 8

Stakeholders and First Nations also work closely with Fisheries Management staff in pre-season, in-season, and post-season processes, providing expert knowledge and specialized experience to inform management decisions and cooperatively develop solutions to management issues. In addition, the Herring Conservation and Research Society (HCRS) plays a strong role in annual management of the roe herring fishery by conducting a roe quality test program and has made significant contributions over time to support research in the area of stock identification.

Governance process - IFMP section 1

Management of Pacific Herring is directed by the Fisheries Act and other acts and regulations including:

These documents are available on the Internet at:

In addition, the new national Sustainable Fisheries Framework contains policies for adopting an ecosystem based approach to fisheries management including:

Along with existing economic and shared stewardship policies, these will help the Department meet objectives for long-term sustainability, economic prosperity, and improved governance.

Access and allocations - IFMP section 6

The Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reason, modify access, allocations, and sharing arrangements as outlined in this IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

1.1 First Nations

Indigenous harvest of herring for FSC purposes may occur coast wide where authorized by a communal licence. DFO will provide First Nations with priority access to the resource for FSC purposes, and FSC allocations for each Major Stock Assessment Area are determined through bilateral discussions.

Fisheries chapters in modern First Nation treaties may articulate a treaty fishing right for FSC purposes that could be protected under Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Commercial access may be provided either through the general commercial fishery or a Harvest Agreement, which is negotiated at the same time as the treaty and is referenced in the treaty, but is not protected under the Constitution Act.

Four modern treaties (Nisga’a Final Agreement, Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement (TFA), Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement (MNA) and Tla’amin Final Agreement) have been ratified in British Columbia. Tsawwassen and Maa-nulth First Nations Treaties came into effect on April 3, 2009 and April 1, 2011, respectively. Most recently, the Tla’amin First Nations Treaty came into effect on April 5, 2016. These agreements articulate a treaty right to food, social and ceremonial harvest of fish and describe the role for First Nations in fisheries management.

Five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island - Ahousaht, Ehattesaht, Hesquiaht, Mowachaht/Muchalaht, and Tla-o-qui-aht (the T’aaq-wiihak First Nations) - have aboriginal rights to fish for any species of fish within their Fishing Territories and to sell that fish, with the exception of geoduck. DFO is working with the First Nations to find the manner in which the rights of the five First Nations can be accommodated and exercised without jeopardizing Canada’s legislative objectives and societal interests in regulating the fishery. The outcome of these discussions could lead to in-season management changes. DFO will make every effort to advise stakeholders of any such changes in advance of changes being implemented.

The Department is currently considering fishing opportunities for the Nations for the 2018-2019 season within the T’aaq-wiihak First Nations’ Fishing Territories as described by the courts (found on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, within Pacific Fishery Management Areas 24/124, 25/125, and portions of 26/126). It is anticipated that discussions will be ongoing.

The Supreme Court of Canada found in its Gladstone decision that the Heiltsuk First Nation had an Aboriginal right to commercially fish herring spawn-on-kelp (SOK). The Heiltsuk currently hold nine SOK licences in the Central Coast area. This SOK is harvested using the preferred means of the Heiltsuk, which is open ponding.

1.2 Recreational

Recreational harvest of herring may occur coast wide, and requires a British Columbia Tidal Waters Sport Fishing licence. Herring may be fished for recreational purposes year-round. The daily maximum sport limit for herring is 20 kg, with a two-day possession limit of 40 kg.

1.3 Commercial

The harvest level for herring in each Major and Minor Stock Assessment Area is based on science advice (provided through the CSAS process) and is derived from estimates of annual stock biomass. After providing for FSC needs, a commercial coast-wide TAC is set and allocations distributed across the four commercial herring fisheries by the Department, and proposed allocations are discussed with commercial fishery representatives through consultation. The annual distribution of TAC is presented as an expected use table (Appendix 4 of the IFMP).

Management of the fishery - IFMP sections 4, 5, and 7

Provide stability and predictability in fisheries management and improved governance through an open and transparent consultation process Foster shared stewardship

Provide stability and predictability in fisheries management and improved governance through an open and transparent consultation process

plans for Roe Herring (Appendix 7) and Food and Bait Herring (Appendix 9).

In the Central Coast stock assessment area, DFO and Heiltsuk First Nation representatives worked together with the goal of developing a Joint Fisheries Management Plan. DFO and Heiltsuk were unable to reach a shared understanding of stock health or the potential to open both SOK and roe herring fisheries. In order to support the government’s reconciliation agenda, including supporting co-management of fishery resources, taking into account the Heiltsuk’s traditional knowledge of the ecosystem, and given the Department’s risk of being unable to ensure orderly and well managed fisheries, DFO has agreed to suspend the roe herring fishery in the Central Coast for 2018. DFO will continue to collaboratively engage Heiltsuk in decisions about the Central Coast herring fishery. This collaborative work will be inclusive of opportunities for other sectors to access the resource when there is sufficient abundance.

In the Strait of Georgia area, commercial roe herring fishing will not be opened in Area 15 or 17 South for the 2018 season. These measures are described in Section 5.1.2 and Section 5.5.2 of the Roe Herring Commercial Plan (Appendix 7).
# Management Issue Objectives Management Measure
1 Stock Conservation and Sustainable Harvest Meet conservation objectives and ensure healthy and productive fisheries and ecosystems.

Base management decisions on the best available scientific information.
This year's stock assessment advice includes the probability that the stocks will be below the LRP. Probabilities are used because there is inherent uncertainty in forecasting what the state of the stock will be for this year's fisheries. The stock assessment report also included analysis using both AM1 and AM2 formulations of the assessment model; however the AM2 was used as the basis for fisheries planning for the 2017/18 season, due to concerns raised regarding application of the AM1 management procedure. AM2 is more conservative and in line with the Sustainable Fisheries Framework, as it assumes a ‘catchability’ factor of 1 for the dive survey and includes fixed cut-offs. The use of AM1 results in higher spawning abundance in some areas and the opening of fisheries at lower biomass levels, than the historical assessment model (AM2).

The biomass is forecast to be below the LRP with an 81% probability in Haida Gwaii (HG), a 27% probability in Prince Rupert District (PRD), a 3% probability in Central Coast (CC), a 0% probability in Strait of Georgia (SOG), and a 20% probability in West Coast Vancouver Island (WCVI). The approach for 2017/2018 will be maintaining commercial fishery closures in HG and WCVI, while providing commercial fishery opportunities in PRD and SOG, and SOK only in CC.
2 Renewal of the Management Framework for Pacific Herring Meet conservation objectives and ensure healthy and productive fisheries and ecosystems.

Base management decisions on the best available scientific information.

Work collaboratively with commercial and recreational sectors to provide fishing opportunities in a manner that ensures the long term sustainability of the resource

Provide stability and predictability in fisheries management and improved governance through an open and transparent consultation process.

Foster shared stewardship

Manage commercial fisheries to improve economic performance, provide certainty for participants and to optimize harvest opportunities.
In 2015, DFO initiated the Pacific Herring Renewal (PHR) initiative in order to renew the current management framework for Pacific Herring and better align with the Sustainable Fisheries Framework. The PHR is comprised of three main elements: (1) Renewal of the Management Framework, (2) Fisheries Management Reforms, and (3) Survey Program Review. A rebuilding plan for Haida Gwaii Herring is also included in this initiative, with a completion timeline of 2020.

To date, the initiative has included the development of Limit Reference Points (LRPs). This research was presented through a Science Advisory Report, Candidate Limit Reference Points As A Basis For Choosing Among Alternative Harvest Control Rules for Pacific Herring (Clupea pallaii) In British Columbia at a CSAS meeting in May 2015. The management approach for the 2017/18 Pacific Herring stocks/fisheries was informed by stock levels relative to provided LRPs.

DFO will be continuing with Pacific Herring Renewal in 2018, including bilateral consultations and engagement with First Nations, industry and stakeholders.

While a fully revised framework will not be ready for this year, the department will incorporate a strategy of staying above the LRP into management decisions this year because it results in closer compliance with DFO's Precautionary Approach policy under the Sustainable Fisheries Framework. FSC fisheries will not be curtailed as the effort and fishery removals are generally low and not anticipated to impact herring stock levels.

The commercial fishery management approach this year considers the risk tolerance for avoiding the LRP in each area given several factors: status of stock biomass, stock growth rates, and the recent history the fishery.
3 First Nations Concerns:

- reports that some First Nations have been unable to successfully harvest FSC and treaty allocations in their traditional areas

- concern regarding the status of herring stocks in some areas
Meet conservation objectives and ensure healthy and productive fisheries and ecosystems.

Manage First Nations fisheries for FSC purposes in a manner consistent with the Sparrow Decision (SCC 1990) and other relevant court decisions (R v. Gladstone 1996 and Ahousaht) and treaty obligations
Catch monitoring and co-management programs are developed in collaboration with some Indigenous communities and organizations to improve DFO’s understanding of these fisheries and potential barriers to successful FSC and treaty related fisheries.

The Department has broadened pre-season and post-season consultation with First Nations in order to share science and other information for planning purposes. Technical representatives from First Nations also participate in the Herring Technical Working Group which contributes to the annual Stock Assessment and Management Advice for BC Pacific Herring: 2017 Status and 2018 Forecast.

DFO has also proposed in-season management measures to address concerns identified by First Nations regarding levels of herring spawn or herring abundance observed in some areas. These measures are outlined in the applicable fishing

Compliance plan - IFMP sections 5 & 9

Fish harvesters are responsible for compliance with all federal and provincial laws and regulations pertaining to fishing operations.

Key priorities for the Pacific Herring fishery for DFO Conservation and Protection are:

Performance review - IFMP appendix 1

Assessment of the 2016/2017 fishery objectives against the stated Performance Measures is available in the Post-Season Review (Appendix 1 of the IFMP).

The fishery is evaluated in the areas of stock conservation and ecosystem processes, consultation, and social, cultural, and economic considerations. The review also includes catch, quota, and license summaries for the 2016/2017 season.

Fisheries and Oceans contact

For additional information on this IFMP Summary or to request an electronic version of the full IFMP, please contact Victoria Postlethwaite at 604-666-7851 or