The Herring School Workshop — a three-day conference this week at British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University, Burnaby campus — brought 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 opened the Aug. 31-Sept. 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 are pursuing 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:
-- 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.