Margaret Titain had a surprise when she pulled up her crab trap, to find herring spawn clinging to the web. (Margaret Titian photo)
Excitement is in the air as herring make their appearance along coastal North America. The seabirds and ocean mammals flock to the shoreline bringing it to life in a feeding frenzy dance that signals the start to spring.
The small Pacific herring begin arriving en masse on coastal North America as early as mid-February for the annual spawn. Evidence that spawn has begun appears as the ocean turns a milky blue/white along the coastline.
Ahousaht Fisheries Manager Luke Swan Jr. says the herring are around Flores Island but the spawn hasn’t yet begun.
“It usually starts when everyone leaves for basketball,” he chuckled, talking about the Junior All Native Tournament which occurs during spring break.
But people have been preparing by sinking young hemlock trees in areas that the herring have been known to spawn. This is a method used to collect spawn which is then eaten raw or cooked.
“Last year they spawned right in the harbour,” said Swan, adding that they haven’t spawned that close to Ahousaht in years.
There was a short spawn in Ucluelet Harbour in early March. Some people were lucky enough to collect spawn while another woman was seen using a dip net to catch herring.
Herring numbers have been down over the past decade or so due to commercial over harvesting. For that reason Nuu-chah-nulth-aht advocate for an ongoing moratorium on commercial herring fishing on the west coast of Vancouver Island.