In 1999, during more productive times for herring, Carlene Paul cleans kwakmis (herring roe) at Ahousaht. This year the herring have returned, but late and in small number. Many worry it is a sign of global warming.
Residents of these northern-most Clayoquot Sound communities said hello to spring in a way that they thought was a thing of the past; they welcomed the return of spawning herring near Hot Springs Cove and the north of Flores Island.
Larry Swan of the Ahousaht Fisheries department said their community hasn’t been able to get home-use herring spawn for a couple of years now.
Despite the excitement over the news of the spawn, which, according to Swan started March 29, the Ahousaht fisheries department could not take part in a home-use fishery because their boat was unavailable.
Community members, however, have headed to the site to put down trees which they use to harvest the spawn.
But the excitement was short-lived. Chief Councillor Keith Atleo described this year’s herring spawn for Ahousaht as bleak. Despite reports of some spawning activity, he’s heard that the spawn is very thin, only two to three layers deep.
He is hopeful there will be a major spawn in the near future; hope fueled by reports that the spawn is happening far later in the year in more northern coastal communities like Klemtu.
It is highly unusual for the herring to spawn this late in the year. They are usually done by late February or early March, but this year the spawn is going into April.
No one so far can offer an explanation for the lateness of the spawn, but many speculate that it may be the result of global warming.
Atleo thanked Terri and Ray Williams from Mowachaht, who were kind enough to send a shipment of kwakmis (herring spawn) to be distributed amongst Ahousaht’s elders.
By Denise Titian