Saturday, March 09, 2013

Herring Here, Herring There, Herring Everywhere

A harbinger of Spring where I live is the annual herring run through the Salish Sea.

The herring in their countless millions migrate south as they spawn, the females attaching their fertilized roe onto kelp.

As they spawn their milt paints the dark ocean a pale emerald green.

And as they come through it's a free for all for creatures from hundreds of miles around.  The eagles come in their masses, their unique screech announcing their arrival.   Seagulls and all manner of waterbirds likewise flock to the beaches.

Beneath the surface schools of salmon and other predators claim their fill.

Seals and sea lions turn out in abundance.   A friend and I went to lunch yesterday at a waterside pub and spotted a gaggle of sea lions, stuffed to bloating, gathered together to sleep it off twenty or thirty feet offshore, each with one flipper held skyward to catch the warmth of the sun.   Wish I'd brought my camera.

As I went out to the porch this morning to collect the newspaper I was greeted by the bark of sea lions resting down on the beach.  I once had a dog that would bark back, triggering a protracted exchange between dog and sea lions.  It's said the sea lions come from as far away as Alaska and California for the annual banquet.

By tomorrow the fishing fleet, the birds, the sea lions and the herring will be gone, moved further down the coast with the whole process repeated over again.   Until next year.


Elliott Taylor said...

Whereabouts was that? I took a day trip to Victoria yesterday and was on the 9 am sailing from Tsawwassen and didn't see anything nearly so interesting. Granted I was in the quiet lounge for most of it but I was looking out the window. I envy folks who live amidst such amazing natural beauty.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi Elliott. The herring run was in the Parksville/Qualicum Beach area for the last few days. By now I expect they're down toward Lantzville or possibly even Nanaimo. It'll be several days before they end up in the south island waters.

It really is amazing as so much wildlife from eagles to sea birds to sea lions converge en masse to gorge themselves while they can.

Actually I wish we'd cut the commercial fishery way back. We're feeding a lucrative Asian market for roe herring and they pay big bucks but the many tonnes of roe the boats take represent food that's not available for salmon and other fish stocks.

PLem said...

Super info! Where would they be by tomorrow 15th of March? Do they drift slowly south?