Herring Season 2013

Its been two months now, since herring season. It was such an exciting year that its taken me awhile to get around to posting on our research blog.

My arrival in Bella Bella this year proved to be a good premonition of the herring season to come.  Valentina Savo and I (Margot Hessing-Lewis) had only just settled in to the floathouse, when we got an invite to check out rumors of a spawn in Troup Pass. The punt carried us to familiar territory (from fieldwork in 2012 and 2013) and we scanned the shoreline in search of the telltale sign: bird life!


Valentina, Margot (myself), Keith

A flock of gulls and a diving line of white-winged scoters drew our attention around the corner, and the sea lions beckoned us into a little cove, where they were driving fish to the surface. Surges of silver flashed through the surface in a moment of flip-floppin’ excitement as the sea lions drove the spawning fish towards the shore.  It was a grey day, but the glacial greens of the spawning event permeated the water near the shore, spreading and growing larger as we watched.  Just my luck to have arrived on one of the first days of herring spawning activity! I went home and sent pictures to all the collaborators I had recently been corresponding with on a big NSERC proposal; I knew they’d all be excited to see photos of herring, doing their thing, in situ.


Herring spawn in East Troup Pass (south side)

I spent a week in Bella Bella, working with our local partners (HIRMD and GRS) on another funding proposal that I’m working on. In general, we’re aiming to continue our research on herring as a coupled social-ecological system.  We’ve done good initial work on the ecology of herring spawn (Britt Keeling just defended her thesis and is about to submit a manuscript on this work), and we have a team of social scientists looking at traditional use and management of herring. Up next, I’d like to bring these two components together.

It was great to be back in Bella Bella, after visiting here for Herring Season in 2011 and 2012 I’m beginning to see a lot of familiar faces as I walk the streets, and feel very welcome. And, the work couldn’t be done without the local support that the Herring School is getting from our collaborators; its always great to touch base in person when I’m here.


Hemlock ready to set in Spiller Channel

Back on the water the spawn locale moved quickly from Troup Pass to Spiller Channel.  We went back out on our last day to help set some trees, and were visited by a big Humpie who surfaced about 10 m from the boat! As usual, we heard his breath, a big blow of an exhale, first.  He passed right by the bay where the line was set; I guess the whale had already had its fill of herring and wasn’t in the mood to munch on these spawners.


Spawn line across a bay – looking South-West across Seaforth Channel

I’ve heard reports from locals that this year had the greatest spawning activity in the past 7-12 years. And I’ve seen pictures of people in Bella Bella, smiling while holding a thick branch of herring roe on hemlock or yaga (stringy seaweed – Egregia menziesii). I hope this bountiful spring heralds a great summer ahead.


Hemlock thick with herring roe

Thick roe on stringy algae or yaga (Egregia menziesii)

 Yaga (Stringy kelp aka Egregia menziesii)


Cheers, Margot 

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