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Archaeological Data Provide Alternative Hypotheses on Pacific Herring (Clupea pallasii) Distribution, Abundance, and Variability
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Iain McKechnie, University of British Columbia
  • Dana Lepofsky, Simon Fraser University
  • Madonna L. Moss, University of Oregon
  • Virginia L. Butler, Portland State University
  • Trevor J Orchard, Lakehead University
  • Gary Coupland, University of Toronto
  • Frederick Foster, Rutgers University
  • Megan Caldwell, University of Alberta, Edmonton
  • Ken Lertzman, Simon Fraser University
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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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Citation Information
McKechnie, I., Lepofsky, D., Moss, M. L., Butler, V. L., Orchard, T. J., Coupland, G., ... & Lertzman, K. (2014). Archaeological data provide alternative hypotheses on Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) distribution, abundance, and variability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(9), E807-E816.