Traditional Fishery

Pacific herring and its spawn have been harvested by Coastal First Nations, Native Americans and Native Alaskans for thousands of years. Some of the technologies used to harvest herring and its spawn have changed over time, while other methods continue to be used to this day.

During spawning season, herring were pulled from the water with baskets, dip nets, spears and long-handled rakes.  Some people also used stone or wood fish traps in the intertidal area of beaches to trap fish on a declining tide.

Today, whole herring are most commonly caught using nets, and they are either consumed fresh or preserved by smoking or air-drying for later consumption, or they are used for bait. Herring are preferred bait for halibut fishing.

To harvest herring eggs (spawn), Coastal Indigenous peoples suspend hemlock or cedar branches or kelp blades underwater near the spawning grounds. Female herring deposit their eggs on these surfaces, usually in many layers. After the spawning event, the herring eggs can be peeled off the branches or kelp for immediate consumption, or, more commonly, are preserved by air-drying. The dried eggs are then stored for later consumption at feasts, potlatches, and daily meals, or they are traded with neighbours.

Today, First Nations of British Columbia and Natives of Washington and Alaska harvest spawn-on-kelp (SOK) for food, social, ceremonial, and commercial purposes, using various methods which are variations on the age-old traditional methods. 



Friday, January 24, 2014