media release

Workshop digests and dissects fate of herring

August 29, 2011

Dana Lepofsky, 778.782.5403,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, until Aug. 31, 778.782.3035,
PAMR, main desk, after Aug. 31, 778.782.3210,

The Herring School Workshop — a three-day conference at the Halpern Centre, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby campus — will bring several groups together to digest and discuss the dismal fate of herring in the Pacific Northwest.

SFU President Andrew Petter, SFU archaeologists Dana Lepofsky and Rudy Reimer/Yumks, and Heiltsuk First Nation spokesperson William Gladstone will open the August 31 to September 2 workshop.

Scholars, fisheries scientists, government policy makers, community leaders, fishers and aboriginal peoples are among the many groups participating in the workshop. Its theme is bringing together culture, ecology and governance to support sustainability.

Participants will pursue goals aimed at staving off the extinction of a fish that is a cultural keystone for aboriginal peoples and a foundation of coastal food webs in the Pacific Northwest.

“Despite thousands of years of continuous use in the past,” says Lepofsky, “many herring stocks have collapsed over much of the region and fail to recover even if fishing pressure is reduced.

“We are now faced with a complex problem where changing climate and North Pacific oceanography interact with a history of relentless industrial exploitation, insufficient science, and the unmet needs of local First Nations, Alaskan natives and Native American communities.”

The workshop’s goals are as follows:

  • Highlight the cultural importance of herring through a focus on indigenous knowledge, practice, values and customs.
  • Achieve broad agreement about the current status of herring in the Pacific Northwest based on local/traditional knowledge and western science.
  • Engage the scientific community in discussing the problems of herring ecology and management.
  • Create a forum for educating the public about the cultural and ecological importance of herring.
  • Establish the most important research and management.
  • Produce a declaration, co-authored by scientists and traditional knowledge experts about the state of herring.

The Herring School — a collaboration of people from SFU, other universities and First Nations communities — organized this conference.

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Backgrounder: highlighted sessions at herring conference

August 31, Day 1: The Cultural and Historical Context

8:50-9:50 am: the Alaska perspective
10:00-11:00 am: the British Columbia perspective
2:10-2:50 pm: the Washington perspective
2:50-3:10 pm: other perspectives on culture and ecology
3:25-4:10 pm: the archaeology of paleoecology of herring, Dana Lepofsky, SFU archaeologist

September 1, Day 2: The Current Context: Management, Policy and Economics

8:30-10:10 am: what do we know; what don’t we know?
10:30 am-12:30 pm: coast-wide perspective on Pacific herring fisheries of North America; brokering relationships between subsistence users and managers in Alaskan herring fisheries; past, present and future of provincial herring management in B.C.; challenges and opportunities in managing B.C. herring stocks; Washington State management
1:50-2:50 pm: herring spawning licenses and Department of Fisheries herring policy and co-management
6:30-9:30 pm: Herring in the Media (herring video by Mark Wunsch)

September 2, Day 3: Moving Forward

8:15 am-12:45 pm: development of agenda for community to regional scale actions; topics addressed include research priorities, management strategies, governance and co-management, communication strategies and a consensus statement about herring status on the coast

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