The Importance Of Herring
Like the foundation of your house, herring is the foundation on which the Great Bear Rainforest is built. It is a small fish with a major role in the lives of nearly every coastal species on land or underwater in BC. It provides an important link between tiny plankton and larger fish, marine mammals and birds. For millennia, this forage fish has provided sustenance for humans to whales to wolves to birds. Fish, such as salmon, perch, and hake, feed on the larvae shortly after they hatch. Seals, sea lions, whales and numerous types of birds feed on adult herring.
Fisheries managers have argued that climate change and variations in predator abundance have been contributing to coast-wide declines in herring in recent decades. However, many observers point to commercial fisheries as the culprit, which began in the late 1800’s when herring were harvested en masse to make fertilizer and fish oil. An archeology study of fish bones found along the coast of Alaska, British Columbia and Washington (McKechnie, year) showed that one species, herring, was consistently the most abundant and ubiquitous fish in the 171 sites. The study of sites up to 10,000 years old also provides sobering “deep time” evidence of consistent abundance and distribution of herring. Only until the industrial kill fishery started in the late 1800’s did stocks begin to collapse.
Each year, the waters turn black as countless tonnes of herring migrate from offshore waters to more sheltered nearshore bays and estuaries where they spawn en masse. Pacific herring spawns are relatively short-lived, lasting approximately three weeks each year at any given location. In some areas, millions of birds, thousands of sea lions, seals – in addition to orca, humpback and grey whales all converge on the spawning grounds. The migration of shorebirds to their northern nesting grounds and the northern grey whale migration are time perfectly to feast on the annual herring spawn.
Protect Pacific Herring – pacificwild.org/…/protect-pacific-herring