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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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Conservation of natural resources, Forage fishes, Forage fish fisheries, Pacific herring


Over the last century, Pacific herring, a forage fish of tremendous cultural, economic, and ecological importance, has declined in abundance over much of its range. We synthesize archaeological fisheries data spanning the past 10,000 y from Puget Sound in Washington to southeast Alaska to extend the ecological baseline for herring and contextualize the dynamics of modern industrial fisheries. While modern herring populations can be erratic and exhibit catastrophic declines, the archaeological record indicates a pattern of consistent abundance, providing an example of long-term sustainability and resilience in a fishery known for its modern variability. The most parsimonious explanation for the discrepancy between herring abundance in the ancient and more recent past is industrial harvesting over the last century.


This article was published through the PNAS open access option. Reproduced here with author permission. This article contains supporting information available online at



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