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Herring the Fisherman's FishBy Ole's Hakai Pass Fishing Lodge,
Pacific Herring have long been used for both food and bait. Over the years DFO, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, has been tracking harvest, age and roe to a certain quality and quanity of the biomass of herring in Pacific waters. From peaks after monitoring commenced (though there have been many changes over the years in how this was determined) in the 1970's to a low in 2010 Herring stocks again indicate a rise.
Herring lay their eggs on kelp often in protected bays near shore and the kelp not only anchors and protects the eggs, but shepherds the hatchlings and provides them a place to hide in waters that contain food and hold the right temperatures for the eggs and newborn fish.
Heiltsuk fishers reported that the 2015 spawn differed greatly from the norm with the herring spawning in much deeper water last year as well as in unexpected locations, (all likely due to the El Nino and the increased oceanic water temperature affecting their areas). Not only was this change noted, but an increase in predators was also evident. Many small mammals eat the roe on the kelp and with the lack of salmon and other food fish they ate more of the laid eggs on the kelp and larger predators also consumed a quantity of roe as their normal diet was upset with the changes in the salmon habits because of the "warm blob". The other thing that was noticed when the survey was done was that there was a fungal bacterial mat on the eggs giving them a white "gloopy" texture in many areas. It is hoped this issue will correct itself when temperatures in the water normalize and will be investigated further.
Commercial harvests of Herring have doubled over the last 20 years and the demand is not expected to drop. Although oceanic temperatures are expected to return to normal it could take a year or more for this to level out and the ocean health to return to normal levels and the migrations of the fish and mammals to go back to their previous patterns.
For more technical information please feel free to read the 62 page report detailing the stock assessment and management of BC Herring for 2015 and advise for 2016. Thank to Todd Greene for pointing us to this important information.