Field Notes / February 25th , 2020

#BIGlittlefish | The Importance of Herring

Herring are a cornerstone of marine biodiversity on the B.C. coast because many other species depend on them as a key food source. However, a wasteful commercial sac roe fishery is threatening herring stocks and therefore, the whales, wolves, fish, and birds that depend on them. We are working with conservation partners Pacific Wild, Sea Legacy, and the Hornby Island Conservancy to highlight the importance of herring and advocating for an end to the unsustainable kill fishery so that stocks can rebuild and the ecosystem can have the chance to flourish.

Like the foundation of your house, Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) form the foundation on which coastal B.C. is built. This small silver fish plays a major role in the lives of nearly every coastal species on land or underwater in British Columbia. Like other forage fish, herring are an important link between tiny plankton and larger animals, from humans to whales, wolves, fish, and birds.

Each year, in early spring, the waters shine with silver as countless tonnes of herring migrate from offshore waters to nearshore bays and estuaries to spawn together. Pacific herring spawns are short-lived but spectacular natural events. Millions of birds and thousands of sea lions and seals converge with orca, humpback and gray whales to feed on herring. Surf scoters and gray whales time their northward migrations perfectly to feast on the annual herring spawn. Even bears and wolves come down to the tideline to eat herring eggs. Herring can live to spawn up to ten times in their lives.

Herring were consistently abundant all along the B.C. coast for millennia. A recent archeology study of First Nations sites from Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington found herring were the first or second most abundant fish species at nearly all 171 sites, which dated back 10,000 years (McKechnie et al. 2014).

Get involved: 

https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-2342

https://www.conservancyhornbyisland.org/

 

Directed by Cam MacArthur

Produced by The Sitka Society for Conservation, in partnership with Pacific Wild, Sea Legacy and Conservancy Hornby Island

Edit by Cam MacArthur

Cinematography by Ian McAllister, April Bencze, Tavish Campbell Coastal Photography, Max Bakken, Pacific Wild

Music by Oliver Thiessen

Written by Mike Berard & Cam MacArthur

Graphic Design by Henry Slaughter

Voice Over by Ashleigh Ball

Audio Tech Jasper Sassaman