Boats gather off Vancouver Island on eve of Pacific herring fishery

Boats gather off Vancouver Island on eve of Pacific herring fishery
WatchBoats - and sea lions - are geared up, with all hands on deck, ahead of the Pacific Herring fishery opening that's expected to Wednesday. Skye Ryan reports.

Fishing boats, sea lions and eagles were all waiting together in French Creek’s harbour Tuesday as fishermen looked forward to the call they have been waiting weeks for: the start of the season’s Pacific herring fishery.

“If not tomorrow, it will be the next day the major spawn will start,” said fisherman Paul Kershaw.

“You just get itchy feet, you see other boats leaving and you just want to get out there fishing,” said his wife, Lynette.

“The whole fleet came early and this is how fishing feels,” said Paul Kershaw. “It feels like it’s late but it’s actually right on time.”

The Kershaw family makes their livelihood fishing, and 26-year-old Neil Kershaw hopes to keep the family business going.

“I’d see myself staying with it. I enjoy it and it’s a great way to make a living,” said Neil.

Paul says he’s been fishing the same run of herring for 47 years now.

“And Neil started about 10 years ago coming out on the herring when he was about 15,” he said.

A crowd of curious onlookers gathered Tuesday as well, waiting for the extraordinary show of the annual Pacific Herring spawn to unfold —one that turns ocean waters turquoise blue as man, beast and bird fight for the feast the sea has brought near shore.

“Oh my God I’m so excited. I can’t wait,” said Parksville resident Judee Doyle.

“I love it, I love it, I love it. Well, it’s nature at its finest,” said Parksville resident Bill Bateman.

But many are opposed to the fishery. Nearly 200,000 people have signed a petition to stop it, concerned about the impact on the environmen  and that overfishing will devastate stocks.

“My heart does go out for these fellows that have their boats out there but you have to see the bigger picture and the bigger picture,” said Sheri Plummer of Communities Protecting our Coast.

According to Paul, test boasts are revealing strong returns of Pacific Herring in 2021.

“From the test boats, the abundance is a lot higher than last year. So that always makes it exciting,” said Kershaw.

Vessels are counting down to an expected call signaling the start of the season, which could come by Wednesday morning.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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