Herring spawn sends boats and crowds rushing for Parksville


WATCH: An extraordinary natural display is drawing fishermen and nature enthusiasts to the waters off East Vancouver Island, as spawning herring transform the water into waves of turquoise. Skye Ryan reports.

The waters were turquoise blue and brimming with life off of Parksville, as a rite of spring drew crowds.

Boats and fishermen seized the short window that is the annual herring spawn.

“It’s like you have to be here to see it,” said Curtis McPherson, who was fishing along French Creek. “There’s like nothing like it. It’s awesome. There’s endless amounts of them it’s almost like,” said McPherson.

The fishing started late Friday, sending a rush of boats into the increasingly turquoise waters that are a tell that herring are spawning between Parksville and Comox.

Once each of the fishing companies quotas is met, or the fish move on, it’s over.

The rush to process all the fish caught follows.

Crews work around the clock at a frantic pace to get the fish on ice and fresh to the market.

“This is crazy,” said Tammy Moilliet of packing plant French Creek Seafoods. “This is 24 hours, we don’t shut down the pump.”

It’s all hands on deck at French Creek Seafoods, pumping fish from boats, loading them onto waiting trucks then repeating the cycle.

“I don’t know if it’s the biggest [on record] but right now it seems like it,” added Moilliet. “It’s just going and going and going. My board’s full till tomorrow night at 7 already.”

This is in stark contrast to what’s happening on the Central Coast near Bella Bella.

There, in an unprecedented move, Fisheries and Oceans agreed to cancel the roe herring fishery over the Heiltsuk First Nation’s growing concerns stocks there are declining beyond recovery ? A decision made jointly in the spirit of reconciliation.

So while the catch here seems to be healthy, it’s not one anyone is taking for granted.

“Because more and more it seems like the fish are getting less and less,” said heavy equipment operator Larry Hayden, who is hauling fish between French Creek and Nanaimo. “So this helps because last years’ herring season didn’t last very long, now whether or not this season does or not that’s hard to say.”

This making the netfuls that are being caught all the more reason for celebration, as a harvest so many have been waiting for arrives for another year.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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