The Ocean Modeling Forum presents Pacific herring research in Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

The Ocean Modeling Forum (OMF) is a University of Washington program run through the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences that aims to bring together interdisciplinary scientists, modeling experts, decision makers, and other people invested in ocean resources. The OMF helps managers frame questions, understand the strengths and limitations of different models, and learn how to incorporate models in their work. Scientists and stakeholders form working groups to address issues relevant to the management of ocean resources.

Pacific herring are an essential source of food for a number of marine species such as salmon, lingcod, halibut, whales, sea lions, and birds. They are also at the foundation of cultural and social systems in the northeastern Pacific. Perhaps it is their close proximity to land while spawning that has linked herring and people in this area from the beginning. Political activist and leader Guujaaw noted that for the Haida First Nation people, “Herring are central to everything.” With this centrality comes complexity for those wishing to manage fisheries to support economies, ecosystems, and cultures.

The OMF has been engaged over the last several years with a diverse group of stakeholders, management agencies and scientists from Alaska and British Columbia, focused on improving the ability to assess the impacts of herring fisheries on the diverse set of benefits and services delivered to communities, economies, and the ecosystem by Pacific herring.

In January 2019, OMF representatives Phil Levin, Tessa Francis, and Melissa Poe were invited to Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, to advise the development of a rebuilding plan for Haida Gwaii herring. Leading the development of the rebuilding plan are a technical group formed of representatives from the Council of Haida Nations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Parks Canada. During the trip the OMF team presented their results to the rebuilding plan technical group, as well as to the Archipelago Management Board (a collaborative group comprised of Council of Haida Nations and Parks Canada representatives who collectively manage the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site). The team shared relevant modeling findings that will be used to support herring fisheries management decisions, including results supporting traditional ecological knowledge about herring migration behavior, stock assessment models that reflect spatial population structure of herring, identification and selection of human wellbeing objectives in marine ecosystems, based on anthropological and traditional knowledge studies; and tradeoffs under herring management decisions among economic, ecological, and cultural benefits.

For this meeting, OMF developed one-page fact sheets and publication summaries detailing different components of their research. To view these materials or to learn more about the team’s work with Pacific herring, please visit oceanmodelingforum.org.

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