Tag Archives: Forage fish

The Pacific Herring Spawn and Nurseries Project

A citizen scientist project to photograph Pacific herring spawn along the West Coast, from Alaska down to California, has been underway for close to two months. It is based in the Comox-Courtenay area, and one of its many partners is the Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI).

Project lead Jacqueline Huard, a scientist with Project Watershed,  explained, “I work with the Coastal Forage Fish Network. We are very community scientist based and working on a herring project in iNaturalist just was a natural fit for us. I wanted to encourage the folks that we work with to put their data somewhere where they could also access it. The goal is twofold, both to collect some data and address a gap, but also to get it out to the public and have a publicly available data set for the public created by community scientists.”

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Satellites track the tiny silver fish hugely important to marine life

Canada’s National Observer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A new scientific endeavour has taken to the sky using high-tech drones and satellite images to understand better the annual spring herring spawn vital to salmon and wildlife on the West Coast. 

Between February and March each year, frigid ocean waters transform to a milky tropical-looking turquoise green when male herring release milt to fertilize the countless eggs deposited by females on eelgrass, kelp and seaweed fringing coastal shores.

Unpredictable and dramatic, the small silver fishes’ spawning event is large and best monitored from great heights, said Loïc Dallaire, a researcher with the SPECTRAL Remote Sensing Laboratory at the University of Victoria. 

“It’s one of the very few animal formations that we can see from space, excluding human developments and towns,” Dallaire said. 

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Herring Roe on the Beach at Smelt Bay

Early in the week of March 11th, during the annual herring run, a combination of weather and tides swept an unusual quantity of herring roe ashore at Smelt Bay.

On Tuesday the 12th of March, the roe in some places was piled 6-8 inches deep on the beach. From a distance it resembled lighter coloured sand piled on top of the familiar gray sand and shingle of Smelt Bay.

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New study shows how industrial development decimated fish populations near Vancouver

Editor’s note: To what extent is modern infrastructure responsible for the crash of fish populations? The book cited below explores how a 3,000 year-old fishery was destroyed when the city of Vancouver came into existence, but this is not a purely urban phenomenon. In a 2016 interview, Cortes Island streamkeeper Cec Robinson described how there is very little gravel left in Cortes Island streams because of early logging practises. This makes it more difficult for salmon to find places to spawn. When Provincial biologist Sean Wong installed a new culvert in Basil Creek, he told Cortes Currents there are 140,000 culverts in BC that are barriers to fish trying to migrate to their spawning grounds. Prior to the erection of the first dam in 1911, Powell River was a major spawning ground for Sockeye Salmon.

By Mina Kerr-Lazenby, North Shore News, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A new study examining the historical decline of fish populations in Vancouver waters highlights the detrimental impacts urban development has had on the local environment, and way of life for First Nations communities.

The Rise of Vancouver and the Collapse of Forage Fish, published in December by Western Washington University, tracks the decrease in numbers of ocean forage fish like herring, smelt and eulachon between 1885 and 1920.

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What FOCI Achieved in 2023

With the Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI) AGM coming up on November 28, it seemed like an ideal time to ask Executive Director Helen Hall what the society achieved in 2023. 

“We’re actually doing 14 different projects, which involve everything from habitat restoration and conservation through to environmental monitoring and community education.  I just wanted to highlight some of those projects,”she explained.

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