Pacific herring (Georgia Basin DPS) (Clupea pallasii)

Category: Fish
Ecosystems: Marine shorelines
Vulnerability to climate change (More details)


Climate vulnerability

Sensitivity to climate change


A main way in which Pacific herring will be sensitive to climate change is through change in their prey availability and the distribution of appropriate spawning habitat. Primary and secondary productivity are strongly linked to juvenile abundance, as juveniles tend to prey on zooplankton (e.g., copepods). Predicted increases in sea surface temperature and changes in upwelling, such as delayed and shorter upwelling seasons, could affect the timing and abundance of available prey for juveniles, though the magnitude of these effects is uncertain. In Washington, herring populations have already shown northward movement for spawning and smaller juvenile cohorts, and these patterns could increase with predicted increases in sea surface temperature. Increased temperatures could also lead to northward shifts and increased abundance of Pacific hake, which prey upon herring and could thus lead to population declines through increased predation. Herring will also be sensitive to potential changes in nearshore and estuarine spawning habitat, such as increased salinity due to sea level rise and saltwater intrusion in estuaries, which could create suboptimal conditions for spawning and larval growth. Additionally, the suite of vegetative species used by herring as spawning substrate could change with long-term variation in water temperature and acidity. The prevalence and composition of this algal mat could result in degradation of spawning habitat to a degree that ultimately reduces incubation success.

Confidence: High

Exposure to climate change


  • Increased ocean temperatures
  • Altered upwelling patterns
  • Changes in salinity
  • Saltwater intrusion in estuarine habitat
Confidence: Moderate


This species is identified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) under the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). SGCN-classified species include both those with and without legal protection status under the Federal or State Endangered Species programs, as well as game species with low populations. The WDFW SWAP is part of a nationwide effort by all 50 states and five U.S. territories to develop conservation action plans for fish, wildlife and their natural habitats—identifying opportunities for species' recovery before they are imperiled and more limited.
This species is identified as a Priority Species under WDFW's Priority Habitat and Species Program. Priority species require protective measures for their survival due to their population status, sensitivity to habitat alteration, and/or recreational, commercial, or tribal importance. The PHS program is the agency's main means of sharing fish and wildlife information with local governments, landowners, and others who use it to protect priority habitats for land use planning.