Herring Harvest

It's that time of the year again when the waters around Vancouver Island become a dazzling aquamarine blue from herring milt. It is the country's largest annual Pacific herring spawn.

When the herring arrive, the coastline comes to life.  The spawn attracts marine life, from Brant Geese to seals and sea lions.  Thousands of gulls and many bald eagles also gather for the feast.

Both fishing boats and marine life take advantage of the herring in Baynes Sound near Denman Island.

Commercial gilnetters and seiners fish only on orders from the Department of Fisheries (DFO).  Baynes Sound is one of the largest spawning areas for herring and obviously a good place to fish.

Fishing boats in Baynes Sound. Photo: Stephanie Nixon
Fishing boats in Baynes Sound. Photo: Stephanie Nixon

At French Creek Marina in Parksville, BC, the 'silver of the sea' is being unloaded after a full day of fishing.

French Creek Marina in Parksville, BC. Photo: ViToday

Gulls and sea lions enjoy their share of herring at French Creek Marina.

Gull eating herring at French Creek Marina, Parksville BC. Photo: ViToday

The term herring is thought to have derived from the Old High German word 'heri' meaning a "host" or "multitude" in reference to the large schools they form. A healthy herring spawn is important to the ecosystem as a whole, as the eggs provide an important source of protein for salmon, birds, and other marine mammals. The health of the herring is truly tied to the health of the entire food chain.

As you can see from the photo below, marine animals are having a feast.

Fishing boats in Baynes Sound. Photo: Stephanie Nixon

Due to stricter fishing regulations and better environmental practices in recent years, herring numbers are on the rebound.

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