Herring eggs cling to sea flora and hatch in 10 days.

Herring run tied to the salmon cycle

Spawning herring is a natural phenomenon linked to marine food cycle

The milky blue water comes alive as a massive ball of silvery herring mass together to prevent predators from feeding on them. The protective sphere, or bio mass ”herring ball,” is smashed apart constantly as sea lions, seals, salmon and killer whales drive their way through with their mouths open to catch the fish.

“It’s like a reverse lottery,” said biologist Brian Kingzett, “there’s so many herring there that the predators can’t get them all.”

It’s called the Silver Wave and it is one of nature’s yearly cycles. It’s the Pacific herring run and it turned the waters around Denman and Hornby Islands a milky blue. The herring are part of an important marine food chain and the location of the intense spawn varies each year.

For three days in the early part of March, the waters boiled with hundreds of millions of Pacific herring drawing in seals, sea lions, sea gulls, salmon, Brant geese, shore birds, killer whales and dolphins. Pacific herring are part of a complex marine ecosystem. The females lay down eggs and the males discharge their sperm directly into the water turning the water turquoise blue.

According to Kingzett, at herring spawning time more than 60,000 tonnes of Pacific herring may have left an estimated 3000 tonnes of small eggs  — 2mm each.

The 10-day hatch is timed for the early days of spring when phytoplankton start to bloom in marine waters and the herring will spawn right up on the beaches. Beaches in the Parksville-Qualicum area are closed to dogs to protect the Brant geese that are feeding on herring spawn. Every female herring lays approximately  2,000 eggs which hatch in about 10 days. The minute fish are microscopic and transparent – and succulent to those animals that feed on them.

“It’s very tied to the salmon cycle and the cycle is unique to this area,” said Kingzett.

As spring comes, the spawn moves up from San Francisco Bay, up the coast all the way to Alaska. Herring boats and wildlife compete for the fish. The herring fishers have a 2014 quota of approximate 15,700 tonnes spread between seiners and gill netters, the wildlife have no quota.

“It’s very important for wildlife and wild fowl,” said Kingzett. “The Brant geese fly up here and time their migration to the herring run.”

This area is the sole stopping off point for Brant geese migrating to Alaska and the Canadian arctic. They rely on the eggs, eelgrass, sea lettuce and seaweeds to sustain them for their long flight north.

Kingzett is the Deep Bay Marine Field Station manager. The 13,000-square-foot, $8.6-million spherical clam shell shaped field station is a unique teaching laboratory and experimental shellfish farm and a key part of Vancouver Island University. It is located on the shores of Baynes Sound located between Qualicum and Courtney. The field station treads lightly on the environment and walks the talk. It is a green research facility and is one of Canada’s greenest building with Platinum Leed certification. The field station is open year-round and supports research and educational opportunities over a wide range of subject areas including marine biology, environmental management, communities and conservation. Tours and customized workshops are available.

In fact, there is a yearly Brant Wildlife Festival in Parksville-Qualicum from March 1 to April 21, celebrating the herring spawn and the attendant Brant geese migration.

Currently the field station has an ongoing exhibition of art from regional artists as part of the Brant Wildlife Festival. The field station can be found at 370 Crome Pt. Rd, Deep Bay in Bowser.

The Parksville-Qualicum Tourism Association is selling the event as a  tourist attraction and it appears people are very interested in this unique phenomenon. It is becoming another local attraction along with the more familiar Horne Lake Caves, Coombs Country Market, Butterfly World, Cathedral Grove and Rathtrevor Beach. Resorts in Parksville and Qualicum offer a vast variety of accommodation options, from family-oriented vacation getaways to luxurious up-scale lodgings.

Just Posted

Saanich doubles price to provide fire dispatch services to Esquimalt

District of Saanich says it can no longer afford to subsidize service to smaller municipality

High construction costs send Douglas bus lane project $2.2 million higher

But re-tendered bid process by Victoria secures lower bid for Hillside-to-Tolmie stretch

Victoria employers stuggle to keep pace with holiday rush

Reports suggest seasonal hiring will outperform previous years

Artwork inspires Glenlyon Norfolk student

A teen party turned philanthropic in the wake of an Artemis Place… Continue reading

Central Saanich veteran receives Legion of Honour from France

Kenneth Brind flew 30 bombing missions over France during the Second World War

VIDEO: Oak Bay senior boys basketball takes Tsumura title

Junior and senior teams host Gary Taylor Classic starting Thursday

Death of Tillicum principal a shock for students, staff

Principal Burley was a vibrant, energetic, supportive and hands-on leader

Horgan says pot smokers may face same outdoor rules as cigarette smokers

B.C. is developing its rules on recreational marijuana

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers naughty list for the week of Dec. 12

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Truck driver volunteers to take dog lost in B.C. back home to Alberta

Frankie, a pit bull service dog, was found wandering in the Lower Mainland

Ladysmith woman who jumped from ferry meets rescuers

A local artist who survived five hours in the frigid waters of… Continue reading

B.C. teacher suspended after explicit images projected to class

Jeffrey Rohin Muthanna had been viewing porn on a school laptop for two years

Man who pledged to give B.C. hockey team millions charged with fraud

Mike Gould has since repaid $8,000 he allegedly owed Cranbrook restaurant, owner says

Strong economy fuels housing sales in B.C.: report

Economist says demand for houses is being supported by a large number of millennials entering the market

Most Read