Water turns turquoise as herring spawn swims to Ucluelet inlet: ‘I love that’

Photo: Geoff Johnson/UkeeTube/Facebook
Ucluelet's Geoff Johnson captured this picture of the herring spawn at Terrace Beach, Saturday, March 16, 2024.

When Ucluelet’s Geoff Johnson got word that a herring spawn was converging off Terrace Beach, he quickly went into photographer mode.

“There’s a Whale Festival going on right now, which times out with the herring spawn and the great whale migration. I was at an event there, and somebody mentioned the herring spawn,” Johnson told CHEK News.

“And I was like, as soon as I’m done here, I need to get down there with the camera and the drone,” he recalled.

“It’s pretty neat to have it so close to such an accessible part of town.”

Johnson captured video on Saturday, March 16, of the ocean turning turquoise. It’s a common sight in March, and he sums it up as sweet.

“I think of the blue bubble gum. You know, bubble gum is blue, pink or purple. That blue colour,” he exclaimed.

The springtime spectacle involves female fish releasing eggs, which are then fertilized by males. This usually happens between February and April in inshore waters surrounding Vancouver Island.

“So the fact that it was in a place where I was legally able to fly the drone…it was kind of in the sweet spot where it was all right to shoot it and get that angle,” said Johnson.

It’s a viewpoint he says you have to see to believe, as the spawn draws people to B.C.’s coast in hopes they’ll experience it for themselves. 

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For Johnson, it’s like something from a TV show, so he had to share it on his Facebook page for everyone to see.

“It’s a David Attenborough, National Geographic thing that happens once a year in my backyard. Of course, I’m going to go check it out, you know,” he said.

“I love that.”

Saturday’s sunny weather added to the beauty and made his job a little easier. 

“It was like patio bikini weather. It was great,” laughed Johnson, noting temperatures soared past 17 C in Ucluelet. “Every day that you do get the greater weather out here, you drop what you’re doing and go get that shot.”

READ ALSO: ‘Places that defy expectation’: Herring return in waves and find new places to spawn off Ahousaht

A biologist told CHEK News earlier this month that, as commercial fisheries remain closed, it’s a promising year for the return of Pacific herring stocks.

Herring and their eggs are food for an “immense number of marine animals including salmon, sea birds, eagles, seals, sea lions, and even whales like humpbacks and grey whales,” according to Campbell River-based Big Animal Encounters.

It adds that while spawning, they’re also an important food source for terrestrial animals like bears and wolves.

“For the west coast of Vancouver Island, the biomass has been increasing steadily over the last six to eight years, and this coming year, the biomass is projected to be quite a bit larger,” said Fisheries & Oceans biologist Jaclyn Cleary.

In a previous interview, Cleary anticipated as much as a 50 per cent increase this year in spawning herring on the west coast, where commercial fisheries remain closed for a fourth year to let populations rebound.

But the spawn doesn’t stick around for long.

“It usually pops up for a day or two, and then it’s gone,” said Johnson, who’s also encouraging people to do their part to keep wildlife safe.

“The odds of you having a negative impact on wildlife if you’re boating through it are pretty high,” he added. “Keep your distance and be smart about it.”

Those wanting to see more of Johnson’s photos and videos of the herring spawn can visit his Facebook page, UkeeTube, where he often posts shots of nature and wildlife encounters in and around the Ucluelet area.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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