Category Archives: Rivers & Oceans

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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New subpopulation of Deep Ocean Orcas Identified

A new subpopulation of Orcas has been identified in the open ocean off the coasts of Oregon and California. UBC researchers have identified 49 individual killer whales in photographs taken between 1997 and 2021. 

According to Josh McInnes, a masters student in the UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and lead author of a new paper in Aquatic Animals, they may also be off the coast of British Columbia.

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Salmon Update: CAFO Conditions, Mass Die-Offs, Manufactured Risks and License Renewals

Scientists at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden recently concluded that some farmed salmon die from depression. (This may not be too surprising, given the conditions in which they are kept.) In other recent research, a team of US and Canadian scientists has charted an ominous trend: mass die-offs of farmed salmon are increasing in both frequency and scale. Some observers question whether the industry, after decades of growth, may be past its peak and about to decline.

Meanwhile, DFO suggests that salmon farming licenses should be renewed this summer for six years rather than the current standard term of two years — only five years after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a campaign promise to shut down net-pen salmon farming in BC altogether by 2025.

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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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