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Information about Pacific herring fisheries

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Indigenous herring fisheries

Pacific herring are an important traditional food source with significant cultural values for coastal Indigenous communities. We ensure that First Nations have priority access, after conservation, to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes. Allocations for each major stock assessment area are determined through bilateral discussions and Indigenous harvest of herring may occur coast-wide where authorized by communal licence or harvest document.

Commercial herring fisheries

We manage 4 different types of commercial herring fisheries off the coast of British Columbia:

Food and bait herring fisheries

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 fishery

Roe herring are fished for their eggs. The fishery takes place as the herring gather to spawn during late February to early March in the southern North Coast of BC, 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 5 geographic areas determined by major herring stocks:

Specific fishing locations are determined by major concentrations of fish and the potential for the highest roe yield.

Spawn on kelp herring fishery

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 Indigenous people, who harvest SOK for food, social, and ceremonial purposes under the authority of communal licences. Indigenous communities 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 herring fishery

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 integrated fisheries management plan.

The fishery is organized into 5 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.

Recreational fisheries

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. Current sport-fishing opportunities for herring can be found on our BC Sport fishing guide.

Harvest rates

Herring play a vital role in the ecosystem of coastal British Columbia and are a food source for marine mammals and other fish species. Harvest rates are applied to the estimated mature spawning biomass which ensures that the majority of mature herring, and all juvenile herring, are available to support ecosystem functions. The harvest level for herring varies from year to year and is based on science advice provided through the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat process.

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