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Pacific Wild Alliance: Herring Recovery in British Columbia

As a staple spring food and a valuable product for trade and export, Pacific Herring (Clupea pallasi ) Roe plays a critical cultural and economic role for a number of First Nation communities on the coast of British Columbia. After decades of decline in herring stocks and many protests against unsustainable commercial fisheries, the Heiltsuk Nation has achieved a tentative agreement with the government for co-management over a large part of the BC coast, which could set a precedent for other fisheries. Pacific Wild plans to support the Heiltsuk with monitoring and public and media communications during the annual fishery.

The traditional territory of the Heiltsuk First Nation covers most of the central coast of B.C. The Heiltsuk have been protesting Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO) support for unsustainable industrial fishing of fragile herring stocks for many years. Following controversial federal management of herring stocks resulting in the peaceful occupation of DFO offices by the Heiltsuk Nation last March, DFO and Heiltsuk have jointly developed a management plan for the 2016 Central Coast herring fishery. Pacific Wild carried out media and public relations on behalf of the Heiltsuk last year, and was credited with helping to achieve this successful outcome. Our real-time reports and footage of last year’s seine fishery and protests were instrumental in setting the frame for the issue and achieving media saturation.

If it is successful, a co-management model for herring could provide the model for up to 25 fisheries in Heiltsuk territory, ensuring greater sustainability, local control, and allocation for other species and habitat, and most importantly will allow herring stocks to recover. What happens this year will set the course for decision-making processes for herring and potentially many other fisheries.

The Heiltsuk leadership has asked our team to carry out communications work to help ensure that monitoring and follow up on agreements reached thus far are in place, and that a co-management agreement going forward beyond 2016 is finalized.

Goal: to promote the recovery of Pacific herring stocks on the central coast by supporting the Heiltsuk and Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nations’ efforts towards co-management and conservation through communications.


1. Work with the HIRMD and the Heiltsuk Fisheries Governance Committee to establish a communications strategy to meet the community’s goals. This will include plans for press releases, coordinating visiting film and print journalists, and social media outreach.

2. Provide advance, real time and ongoing coverage of the herring spawn event through press releases, written articles, and short videos that illustrate the cultural, ecological and economic importance of herring and the spring spawning event, as well as threats to herring stocks on the central coast of B.C. Footage gathered last year will be used as well as new footage gathered by PWA staff.

3. Distribute films and written materials widely through social and traditional media. Short films will be released initially through mainstream media outlets and then pushed through social media.

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