Future for Herring

by Dana Lepofsky and Andrea Weiser

If you’ve read the last three blogs about the cultural and ecological importance of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii), you may already have an idea how to be an advocate or activist to help restore this fish to its former place in our social and ecological systems. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a team to support herring recovery. If you or someone you know has a herring story, this is your invitation to become a part of it.

The BC-based “Herring School” is looking for stories about herring that are passed down through generations and for elders who can provide their own first-hand knowledge that can be combined with western scientific perspectives on herring.  These two sources of knowledge combined, give us a better understanding of herring in the past, present, and future.  We are also looking for any old photographs that capture glimpses of herring harvest in the past. Collaboration on many levels and across boundaries is key in the beautiful, once bountiful, Northwest Coast marine ecosystem.

Collaborative efforts among Indigenous peoples, university researchers, policy makers, resource managers, and other local observers have gained speed in recent years, particularly in Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington. Our aim is to bring more individuals, communities, researchers, marine managers and policy makers together throughout the Northwest Coast who understand the broad importance of herring.

All of us are asking questions and collecting data about what is driving the decline and lack of recovery of herring communities.  Using techniques from many natural and social science disciplines, and based on traditional ecological knowledge, we are investigating many things including herring population dynamics, genetic diversity, the role of warming waters, and traditional fisheries governance.

Take a bit of time to poke around the Pacific herring website, to learn about herring’s cultural and ecological importance www.pacificherring.org. You never know what might jog your memory or point us toward a new resource.  Also check out closely associated work done by our Alaska colleagues:


Help us learn about new research or resources and add links to our website as a way of connecting various communities and disciplines on issues of herring. You can email us at webmaster@pacificherring.org with your ideas.

Learn about the Herring School Workshops and how herring is a “cultural keystone” species:


Check blog posts from one field season in the central coast of BC with researchers from Simon Fraser University and the Hakai Network for Coastal People, Ecosystems and Management http://herringschool.wordpress.com/

Our research has been covered by the popular media, which is important for getting the word out to you – the people who vote and thus the policy makers!




Others are exploring new protocols for protection of herring stock http://www.alaskasealife.org/New/research/index.php?page=herring.php

and are contributing to our understanding of herring as a cornerstone marine and terrestrial food webs:




The importance of restoring eelgrass and kelp beds as habitat for spawning herring is especially important


We are finding that Aboriginal rights and title have been over looked.






We are working to bring all management and restoration concerns to the table so they can be approached collectively.





The aim of the BC-based “Herring School” is to provide good herring research and science, encourage non-confrontational open forums, and start coming up with solutions. Valuable input will get us there.

If you have a story to share about Pacific herring, please visit www.pacificherring.org and click on the quick link at the bottom left of the screen called, “Share Your Story.”

Dana Lepofsky, is a Professor of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. She collaborates with the Hakai Network for Coastal People, Ecosystems and Management and is Co-Editor of the Journal of Ethnobiology.

Andrea Weiser is an independent contractor and a member of the BC-based, “Herring School,” a collective of people from academic and First Nations community who are passionate about herring. She holds an MA in Archaeology from Simon Fraser University.


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