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431-00052 (Fisheries)

Paper petition

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

We, the undersigned residents of Canada, draw the attention of the Government of Canada to the following:

  • THAT the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) announced that the Pacific herring population dropped by approximately 1/3 between 2016 and 2019, and will drop by more than 50% by 2020;
  • THAT the unexpected drop in the herring population has led to overfishing of existing stock;
  • THAT Pacific herring is the basis of the food web that supports salmon, killer and humpback whales, cod and halibut, seabirds and other independent species on the Pacific coast;
  • THAT First Nations have constitutionally protected rights to herring which are an important food source and an integral part of First Nation cultures.

THEREFORE, we the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the government of Canada to suspend the 2020 Salish Sea herring fishery until a whole ecosystem plan is developed, to fairly compensate local fishers for economic losses, and to ensure that decisions are made with the full participation of First Nations and local communities.

Response by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Bernadette Jordan

The Government of Canada is committed to effectively managing Pacific herring fisheries through evidence-based decisions, ensuring the health and sustainability of these stocks into the future. We share your view that Pacific herring is an important source of food for many species on the Pacific coast and recognize that herring is an integral part of First Nations’ culture and that First Nations have priority access to herring for food, social, and ceremonial purposes, after conservation.

Pacific herring are a forage fish species, and as such have large fluctuations in biomass abundance, and so a decline in biomass is not unexpected. Additionally, biomass forecasts are highly uncertain because factors such as environmental conditions and predation vary from year to year. DFO’s harvest management approach is designed to account for this variability. The performance of the approach has been evaluated by DFO Science and subjected to scientific peer review. The approach is designed to be very likely to avoid spawning biomass levels below a limit reference point.

The harvest level for the 2019-20 Strait of Georgia herring fishery is 10,895 metric tonnes (harvest rate of 20 per cent of the forecasted spawning biomass). This maximum harvest level is considered precautionary, leaving 80 per cent of mature herring and all juveniles available to support future populations and ecosystem processes, such as food for salmon and marine mammals. The reduced allowable catch is consistent with the conservation goals of the management approach and provides opportunity for industry, including those First Nations that participate in the commercial fishery.

The approach outlined above was detailed in the 2019-20 Pacific herring Integrated Fisheries Management Plan and released as draft from December 18, 2019 – January 17, 2020, for a 30-day consultation period with First Nations’ communities and organizations, and stakeholders such as commercial harvesters. The consultation process ensures that fishery management decisions are transparent, made with the best available science, and informed by Indigenous, commercial harvester, and public considerations.

Presented to the House of Commons
Gord Johns (Courtenay—Alberni)
February 3, 2020 (Petition No. 431-00052)
Government response tabled
April 11, 2020
Photo - Gord Johns
New Democratic Party Caucus
British Columbia

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