We continue our examination of the herring roe on kelp fishery on October 29th.

The Pacific Herring, a highly sought after fish prized for its roe by coastal first nations has been a traditional food source for centuries. The herring has played a large part in overseas markets where the Japanese consider the roe from this small fish to be a delicacy.  All coastal communities on the pacific northwest have harvested and used this roe not only for cultural means but also for ceremonial and food purposes. In this episode we meet commercial fishermen and visit a small coastal communities that are witnessing many changes to this fluctuating and threatened industry.

The commercial Fishing industry in Canada has experienced many changes over the last 6 decades. Over a course of 20 years between the 1950’s to the early 1970’s up to 400,000 tons of herring were caught annually only to drop to 40,000 tons by the early 2000’s due to depleting numbers and overfishing. Since then the Canadian department of fisheries and oceans have put strict regulations in place to preserve the herring and to allow the industry to flourish. The fluctuation in numbers and price have not always been able to keep up with the demand but for some lifelong fisherman…..this is the only life they know. 

The first nations of Canada have described Herring roe as “indispensible” and have been using this once abundant fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes. Not only is the herring roe used by first nations but the commercial fishing industry has played a large part by providing this delicacy to oversea Japanese markets in large quantities. 

In the small community of Bella Bella located on the central coast of British Columbia, also known as the Heiltsuk territory the people have always prided themselves on the abundance of seafood in their traditional territory. In recent years the decline in numbers has forced these smaller communities to refrain from allowing commercial fisheries in their areas to maintain and rebuild the stocks for future generations.

Now that there is a new government in place it will be interesting to keep one eye on the industry and another on the relationship between First Nations and the Government of Canada. On November 4, 2015 the first time ever in Canadian politics we have an indigenous Minister of Fisheries. Lets see if the situation will change in the 2016 herring season. Whatever the outcome, this is the back story of Herring Roe on Kelp.

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