Dire Strait? Minister shuts down call to cancel west coast herring fishery

By Ian Holmes
February 1, 2019 - 5:19pm Updated: February 2, 2019 - 7:31am

Dozens of boats scattered in the Parksville area for a past commercial herring fishery.Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns in the House of Commons Thursday pressing Fisheries minister Jonathan Wilkinson to put a moratorium on the last remaining west coast commercial herring fishery.YouTube

NANAIMO — Repeated calls to shut down the final commercial herring fishery on the west coast were rejected by the federal government.

Courtenay-Alberni New Democrat MP Gord Johns challenged minister Jonathan Wilkinson in the House of Commons Thursday on the need to close the fishery in the Strait of Georgia due to a lack of supply.

Johns said herring are a critical part of the area's ecosystem, providing a food source for local salmon, which in turn feed endangered southern resident killer whales.

“If a moratorium is not enforced to protect this critical food source and to allow the stocks to rebuild, we're endangering this interdependent species,” Johns said during Question Period.

Johns said 32,000 British Columbians signed a petition to shut down the Salish Sea's commercial herring fishery.

Minister Wilkinson responded by stating the Strait of Georgia herring stocks are abundant and the fishery will go ahead, adding regulatory decisions are based on science.

The DFO has closed the other four west coast zones where the fishery existed in past years.

Brenda Spence, the DFO's regional pelagics coordinator, told NanaimoNewsNOW about 28,000 tons of herring will be allocated for this year's commercial herring fishery in the Strait of Georgia. She said a maximum of 20 per cent of the herring can be caught, noting the quota is rarely met.

Spence said around 200 boats involved in the annual fishery hit the waters between Comox and Nanaimo in late February or early March for the catch lasting upwards of two weeks.

The Association of Denman Island Marine Stewards claimed the overwhelming amount of herring caught in the annual fishery is used as food at salmon farms and for pets.


[email protected]

On Twitter: @reporterholmes

Nanaimo RCMP mascot completes cross-Canada trek