Island fishermen ‘worried’ as conservationists call to stop herring fishery set to start in days

Island fishermen 'worried' as conservationists call to stop herring fishery set to start in days
WatchBoats have begun to gather for the fall herring fishery in the Strait of Georgia, even as environmentalists call for Fisheries and Oceans to put a stop to it before it begins. Skye Ryan has more.

Lasqueti Island herring fisherman Billy Forbes worries about the future of his four-generation long fishing family.

“Of course I’m worried that’s my pension right there,” Forbes told CHEK News on Saturday as he stood in front of his boat — called the Lasqueti Sons — at the French Creek marina.

After 51 years of captaining fishing boats in the Strait of Georgia, Forbes said he’s unsure if handing over the family’s namesake boat would be a gift to his grandson or a curse.

“This is all he knows, so if there’s nothing left for him he’s gotta find something else,” said Forbes.

Taylor Forbes, 23, said he has started to lose hope there’s a future in fishing.

“Having to look for a completely new profession so that’s definitely weighing on a lot of people and it’s just a weird time,” said Taylor Forbes, a crew member on the Lasqueti Sons.

The raised alarm comes as conservationists call for an additional fishery closure in the Strait of Georgia — even after many fishermen saw their 2021 salmon seasons end with sudden closures due to low returns days before they began.

This time, officials are being urged to put a moratorium on the fall food herring fishery and bait herring fishery that’s set to start on Nov. 20.

“We think it’s very urgent, and we’re urging the new minister to pick up on this, said Grant Scott of Conservancy Hornby Island.

According to Conservancy Hornby Island, drastic measures are required now to protect herring stocks, that feed chinook salmon, and that in turn are a prime food source of endangered southern resident killer whales. Instead, Scott, said Fisheries and Oceans are preparing to allow 2,100 tonnes of food and bait herring to be caught this fall — up from 600 tonnes just a few years ago.

“It’s overfishing, it’s probably global warming, it’s all of these factors (that) are at risk to the marine environment and to this fish that’s so critical,” said Scott.

For now, boats will keep prepared for the fishery, aware it could end before it starts.

Fisheries and Oceans, will make any closures to the herring fishery known before it opens next week.

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Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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