A seiner with herring in its net. Photo by Ian McAllister

Federal minister dismisses call to close Georgia Strait herring roe fishery

‘We make our decisions based on science’: Wilkinson

While calls for the closure of a herring roe fishery operation in the Strait of Georgia are increasing in volume, the federal government has stood firm in support of the fishery and their scientific research methods.

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns spoke at the House of Commons on Thursday, expressing concern about the fishery, and imploring Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson to impose a moratorium. He spoke about the important role the herring have at the bottom of the food chain for sustaining endangered Chinook salmon and southern resident killer whale populations.

“If a moratorium is not enforced to protect this critical food source and allow the stocks to rebuild, we’re endangering these interdependent species,” said Johns in his speech.

Throughout January, Conservancy Hornby Island has been heavily campaigning for the closure of the fishery, and as of Sunday afternoon, their Change.org petition had 40,100 signatures with the number rising rapidly.

READ MORE: Conservancy Hornby Island calls for government to shut down herring roe fishery

Wilkinson replied to Johns’ request saying all decisions regarding fisheries are backed by science and evidence.

“There are five different herring fisheries areas off of the B.C. coast, three of them are presently closed, one is open for a commercial fishery based on the abundance of the stock that exists there,” he said. “And as I say, we make our decisions based on science.”

Later in a Facebook post, Johns stated that allowing this fishery to operate is reckless.

“The Minister knows very well that the model DFO uses to estimate the size of the Pacific herring stock in the Salish Sea has failed six times in the last 13 years,” he said. “[The Strait of Georgia fishery] is the only herring run of five that hasn’t been closed because of over-fishing.”

According to Conservancy Hornby Island, the Strait of Georgia is the last remaining major Pacific herring spawning area from Washington State to Alaska.

The approval for the herring roe fishery would allow for the catch of 20 per cent of herring in this area, equalling approximately 28,000 tons of spawning herring or approximately 200 million fish.

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