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Fisheries and Oceans
Deputy Minister
Peches et Oceans
DEC 0 9 2013
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A decision is sought on the re-opening strategy for three of five major herring stock areas (Haida
Gwaii, Central Coast and West Coast Vancouver Island) that have closed for up to a decade.
'The forecast for 2014 indicates that stocks in the three previously closed areas are above the "cut
off' level that could trigger a commercial fishery (Tab 1 ). Key considerations for re-opening
these closed areas are biological status of the stocks, manageability of the fisheries and legal risk
around First Nation rights recognition.
Consultations with industry stakeholders and First Nations on the management plan for the 20 13
14 season are polarized. First Nations support continued commercial closures, stating there is a
need to define rebuilding objectives and review harvest rules before opening these areas. The
commercial sector points to these stocks being above the "cut off' and recommends commercial
roe herring and Spawn on Kelp (SOK) fisheries with reduced harvest rates.
The Department announced in the Spring that the harvest management system needs to be
reviewed to align with the objectives of the Sustainable Fisheries Framework; however this work
will not be completed for 2014. Work continues with First Nations to address concerns about
herring management and the implementation of fishing rights. As a result, the management
approach taken for 2013/20 14 requires caution and consideration of the risks.
Commercial harvests are being planned for the 2013/2014 roe herring and Spawn on Kelp (SOK)
fisheries in the Strait of Georgia and Prince Rupert. However, for the three areas showing signs of
recovery, it is recommended that they remain closed in 2014 while progress is made on the new
management framework, including ecological indicators in Gwaii Haanas. The final draft Pacific
Herring Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) is scheduled to be released mid-
There are five major stock assessment areas for Pacific herring. Three of the areas (Haida Gwaii,
Central Coast and West Coast Vancouver lsland) have been closed to commercial harvest for
much ofthe last decade. The other two areas, Strait of Georgia and Prince Rupert District, have
sufficient abundance to support commercial harvest.
The forecast for 2014 indicates that stocks in the three previously closed.areas are above the "cut
otl" level that could trigger a commercial fishery (Tab 1). Because of the extended closure, the
Department consulted this fall on approaches for re-opening these areas. Options
discussed include: 1) Maintain closures for commercial fisheries until further evidence of
recovery is available and the harvest management strategy is evaluated; and 2) Allow some
harvest but at a more conservative 1 0% harvest rate until the harvest management strategy is
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There are divergent views on approaches for 2013/14. First Nations have voiced strong support
for continuing the existing commercial closures. They have raised views that the current
management and assessment system led to these areas being closed for an extended period. In
addition, as part ofthe 2010 Gwaii Haanas Marine Agreement, DFO and the Haida agreed to
establish ecosystem objectives for the National Marine Conservation Area by 2015.
The commercial sector requested that 2014 herring fisheries take place, albeit at a reduced harvest
rate from the established 20%, in all areas above cut off," regardless of the extended closures.
This wil1 help rationalize their operations over a balance of areas and work towards their objective
of security of access.
The Department proposes to review the 25 year old harvest management strategy for herring to
align the control rules with the Sustainable Fisheries Framework. The series of steps involve:
1) development of biologically derived limit and target reference points through a scientific
review process; 2) evaluation of the performance of the existing harvest control rules;
3)define what is a "rebuilt" herring stock; and 4) integration of ecosystem based objectives.
All of these steps are relevant for proper assessment and renewal ofthe management strategy.
However, this evaluation process will require time to complete.
Science assessment indicates an increase in herring biomass and a possible decrease in natural
mortality in most areas, but the reasons for this decrease in natural mortality are not clear. In all
three stock areas there has been a long {20-30 years) downward trend in spawning biomass. The
science advice indicates that although herring biomass has increased in each of the closed areas,
the forecast is for levels to remain near the cut off'. The Department is still negotiating with
stakeholders to develop a program for continued assessment of stocks. Although this is a key
interest to all parties, adequate funding remains a significant barrier.
Allowing for a commercial opening at a 20% harvest rate is not supported by first Nations or
through the Department's analysis. The commercial sector has proposed a less than 20% harvest
While a I 0% harvest rate is more precautionary and would likely be supported by the commercial
sector, this would not be supported by most First Nations who do not view the stocks as rebuilt.
Both Heiltsuk and Haida have voiced strong opposition to any commercial fisheries in 2014.
The herring industry is frustrated by issues impacting their profitability, including high licence
fees, a lack of DFO funding for the stock assessment program, and access to the resource. They
have initiated a legal review of the Department's decision processes over the past 5 years. Their
interest in opening these previously closed areas is strategic. They want to rebuild markets
carefully through gradually increasing volumes of higher quality fish, while also ensuring that
decisions respect the management regime while it is under review.
In Haida Gwaii and the Central Coast, commercial fishery openings have a high probability of on-
water protest, which can be only partially mitigated by management actions to separate the
aboriginal Spawn on Kelp (SOK) and roe herring fisheries. More progress on the Heiltsuk
reconciliation process, the emerging Haida reconciliation talks and the development of ecosystem
objectives in Gwaii Haanas is needed to reduce legal and management risks. The Nuu-chah-nulth
Tribal Council has expressed the view that no commercial roe herring fisheries occur on the west
coast of Vancouver Island. They would only support food, Social and Ceremonial harvest as wel1
as Spawn on Kelp economic harvest. Furthennore, because of the recent decision from the
Lisa Mijacika (604) 666-3637 Resource Manager, Pelagics I P. Cowvillc/A. Willett/S. LapointeJM. Pemon/D. Gillis/K. Stringer
Supreme Court that confirms the rights of five Nuu-chah-nulth Nations (Ahousaht,
Ehattesaht/Chinehkint, Hesquiaht, Mowachaht/Muchalaht, and Tla-o-qui-aht) to a commercial
harvest, the Department may need to negotiate an agreement to accommodate this latest ruling.
While there is some indication that the three closed areas are showing signs that the stock is
rebuilding, the Department would like to see more evidence of a durable and sustained recovery
before re-opening. Maintaining closures in these three areas for another year will allow time to:
(I) advance progress on evaluation of the harvest management system; (2) develop appropriate
strategies for rebuilding stocks for implementation in 2015 including developing a one year
solution for a Herring Stock Assessment project (in the absence of a Section 10 Use of Fish
agreement); and (3) reduce risks associated with First Nation interests that could involve conflict
on the fishing grounds and/or legal action. This one year solution must be associated with the
development of clear fisheries management and ecosystem objectives and with the relevant
engagement with stakeholders on the development of an affordable long-term solution for the
monitoring and assessment of this resource.
Maintain a closure for the three areas for the 2014 fishing season, but signal commitment for the
(1) Continue explore options for commercial Pacific herring licence fee reform;
(2) Advance work under the sustainable fisheries framework to renew the current management
framework; and
(3) Signal a commitment by the Department to continue to work with industry to maintain the
necessary science activities (on a cost sharing basis) in support to the long-term sustainability of
this fishery. Note that this will require a departmental funding strategy.
The target date for release ofthe final draft IFMP for consultation is December 16, 2013.
A meeting with your staff could be arranged if you
Matthew King David Jfci
Deputy Minister Associate Deputy Minister
Gail Shea
Minister's comments
2013-S02..()()JS4 - RE-OPENING STRATEGY FOR THREE ,r-_ . ftj f'
Lise Mljacika (604) 666-3637 Re!outee Manager, Pclagics

rlnce Rupert
West Coast

1 Strait of
Stock Assessment - Trends in Herring biomass
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Depletion: SBt/SBo - the ratio of
Spawning Biomass over the
Unfished Equilibrium Spawning
5% to 95% Confidence Interval
of Depletion
Commercial fishery "cutoff'
level: level above which
- - - commercial fisheries may occur
(25% of the Unfished Equilibrium
Spawning Biomass, SBo)
Projected 2014 Depletion Levef
with 5% to 85% Confidence
Interval: These values were
output from the 2013 stock
assessment but do not appear in
the Working Paper nor the
Science Advisory Report
Haida Gwaii: there has been a downward trend in spawning biomass since the late 1980s
and biomass levels have been at or near the commercial "cut-off' level (biomass level at
which commercial fisheries are considered) for the period 200420 10 and it is only in the last
year has there been an indication of an increasing trend in spawning biomass levels. With no
fishing in 2014, spawning biomass is projected to be similar to 2013 levels.
Central Coast: Spawning biomass levels have shown a downward trend since the late 1990s,
was at or below the "cut-off'' level since 2007 and only in the last two years have been
estimated to be above the "cut-off' level. With no fishing in 2014, spawning biomass for is
projected to be lower than 2013 levels.
West Coast Island: Spawning biomass levels have demonstrated a downward
trend since the late 1980s, was at or below the "cut-off' since 2005 and only the last two years
have been estimated to be above the "cut-off" level. With no fishing in 2014, spawning
biomass is projected to be similar to 2013 levels.

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