A herring spawn has been documented for perhaps the first time ever off the shores of Port McNeill.
“No one we have spoken to so far can ever remember Pacific herring spawning near the shores of Port McNeill and Hyde Creek,” states a post dated March 27 from the Marine Education & Research Society’s (MERS) social media page,
“We see juvenile herring so often, it’s what the humpbacks here specialize on. But, we do not see adult herring and never have we seen a spawn.”
MERS is a marine conservation, research, education, and marine wildlife response charity based on Northern Vancouver Island.
A herring spawn (or herring run) occurs every spring on the eastern shores of Vancouver Island between February and April.
MERS noted the waters turn “turquoise from the milt of the males” and with the spawning comes “bald eagles, the diving birds, the gulls, the steller sea lions (and a few male California sea lions too).”
MERS added herring are not a “spawn-and-die species” as they can live for 8+ years. “They spawn every year from the time they sexually mature at age three to four years.”
Jim Shortreed is a Victoria-based herring enhancement volunteer has a theory as to why this herring spawn is all of a sudden happening here in the North Island. He pointed to the Haida Gwaii Herring Rebuilding Plan published last fall that states “when herring stocks are low, they have a tendency to spawn in random events in random places.
“Two springs ago there were spawns reported in Tod Inlet and Bourgyne Bay. Last year there were spawns at Esquimalt, Round Island and Texada. So far this spring no spawns in any of those places.”
Herring stocks have not been counted yet and that count won’t be available until July.
However, “the number of spots with no spawn are very numerous and easy to count,” added Shortreed.
“No spawn south of Qualicum yet, none in Ganges, Sidney or Sooke. No spawn in the Gorge at Victoria even, and that was once legendary. The volunteers of Howe Sound have worked with the First Nations to carefully nurture their herring back to some semblance of abundance.
“They had a good spawn in the Squamish Estuary this spring.”
Correction – This article originally stated that this was the first time a herring spawn had been seen in the Broughton Archipelago. In actuality, it is the first time residents can remember seeing one off the shores of Port McNeill
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