The Annual Herring Spawn

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Let the Feast Begin

IMG_1841Every year, around the end of February, the herring return to lay their eggs on local beaches. This signals the end of a long tough winter for many wild animals, but especially eagles.  I’ve heard that more eagles die between the end of salmon spawn and the start of the herring spawn than all the rest of the year.  They die from lack of food, but that all changes when the millions of tons of herring show up.  All types of wildlife show up to take part in the feast of the season.  It’s hard to describe the energy you feel when you witness the eagles, seagulls, sea lions and dogfish feeding on the herring that are waiting to spawn.

The Herring Fishery

IMG_1826Man is also looking to get their share.  The roe is valued in Asia, and in the past generated high prices and a lucrative fishery.  Now, lower prices and a quota system have tamed the once infamous herring fishery.  Fisheries and Oceans assesses and tests the fish to determine size, quantity and maturity.  When the herring have over 10% body weight in eggs they are consider ripe.  There is a lot more to it than that, and I’m no expert.  In past years the town of Comox was invaded by fisherman from all up and down the coast.  The bars were filled with the crew of a hundred boats waiting for the herring to spawn.  Nobody really knew when the herring would spawn so they would wait, up to a month, so they wouldn’t miss it.


Sea Loins off Pt Holmes

I don’t think we have gotten any better at predicting when the herring will spawn. It may be time to re-examine this controversial fishery.  There was a big effort to have the herring roe fishery shut down this year.  Herring are near the bottom of the food chain.  A lot of the sea animals depend on this feast.  Fisheries and Oceans puts out daily notices with the results of their tests  and they can be accessed through this link.  Then you need to enter herring in the KEYWORD box, and push Display Notices button.  There is a lot of information in these notices but what I look at is the location of the schools and the percentage of roe.

See the Herring spawn from the water

Orcas during herring

Last year we got good views of the herring spawn and the Orcas after the seals.  Anyone interested in getting up close to this event please e-mail me your contact information and I’ll put you on the list.   I plan on doing one trip on a Sunday and one when the fishery is open.  It’s likely going to be short notice and the chance of being right in the middle of the fishing frenzy is not very high, but for the next 3 or 4 weeks our local waters will be full of life.  The trips would probably be early March in the afternoon for 2 hours. $40 per person.