All the years that I have lived on the island, the one time of year that always amazes me is the herring run. Have you ever seen a herring ball?
This particular picture shows atlantic herring but they are very similar to our pacific herring. They ball up like this as a protection method but provide a great bite size snack for Gray whales, Killer Whales and also a smorg for seals and seagulls.
Herring are a large part of the food chain for larger mammals and are essential foraging food- for gulls and ducks, also, for us humans, the roe or eggs are consumed as a delicacy. Fish such as salmon eat the larvae soon after it hatches and seals, whales (including the humpback, killer and gray) and many birds gorge themselves on the herring itself. During the spawning season, late March to early April, the herring move away from their feeding areas, which are nearer the shoreline – rich in plankton and kelp. The females then deposit up to 40,000 eggs on eel grass, kelp or other marine plants. The males release their milky sperm or milt into the water, this can be seen as huge clouds in the water.
As you can imagine, this creates quite a site and a hub of activity in the water as all the herring congregate and voila, feast day and an incredible site for all to see from the shoreline. This is also the time for commercial collection of the roe and as different “areas” open, the fishermen are frantically working to get their share. Most times these openings do not last long but…. what a blast of excitement as you watch. If it lasts through the night, it seems as if a little city has sprung up before our eyes as the lights of the boats reflect on the water of the Salish Sea.
Cards by Lisa Bell can also be purchased at the Qualicum First Nation Campground