Like a Lamb

This year, March came in “like a lion,” as any herring fisherman will tell you.

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They must have had some terrible days even in these relatively sheltered waters. I know I would be so seasick if I had to be out there.

But at the end of March I took some pictures of the same area and it was a very different story. It was early morning and the sun would be creeping over the horizon momentarily. Its warm glow already lit up the few stragglers of the clouds that had blown through overnight.

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It was still  early, but when I looked more closely, I saw a partial yellow globe.

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No, it’s not the sun. That’s the waning moon. The sun was rising far to the east of it, shining on the clouds around the moon. In the stillness of the dawn the sun sent poetry rays to me:

“Oh Moon, I guess you think you’re cool

To sashay round that cloud,

But keep on moving, you old fool,

While I shine warm and proud.”

The next day, also early in the morning (I’m out there because that’s when the dogs have to go out), the sun was rolling up its sleeves, ready to get to work and warm this corner of the earth. I welcomed it and told it to stay as long as it wanted.

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In these last days of the month, March truly went out “like a lamb.”

Roe Herring Fishery

*(Click to enlarge beach photos.)

Herring are important. They are a food source for sea lions and salmon, as well as for people.

In February and early March, the herring gather in selected areas along the coast of British Columbia to spawn in shallow waters.  They seek out areas with kelp and eel grass beds because this is what the roe will attach to.

In an aerial view you can see the herring spawn as pale streaks in the water. Altogether these streaks measured about 35 miles along beach areas of Vancouver Island between Comox and Nanaimo during this year’s roe herring season.

For the herring fleet it is important that the fishery take place at the right time. The herring must be showing up in healthy numbers and have grown to an acceptable size and roe maturity. They must be harvested before they spawn, since it is the roe that is so lucrative on the Japanese market. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans collects samples of herring to determine the optimum time for the fishery to begin.

When the fishers get the “go ahead,” seiners (large vessels with heavy nets) encircle a school of fish with a net and pull it together like a purse, hence the name “purse seining.” Smaller boats called gillnetters use finer monofilament nets and gillnet the fish. Each licence holder has a quota that is their allowable catch. Let’s hope the weather happens to co-operate at the critical fishing time.

The herring are brought to processing plants where the female fish are stripped of their eggs for shipping to Japan.  Most of the remaining fish is reduced for use in fertilizers and pet foods.

Photo courtesy of Pavel Knettig.

Photo courtesy of Pavel Knettig.

Photo courtesy of Pavel Knettig.

Photo courtesy of Pavel Knettig.

Once the escaped herring have spawned, they return to the deeper ocean, leaving their roe to fortune. Some of these herring eggs stick to kelp and eel grass while great skeins of them wash up on the beach to become food for the shorebirds and eagles.

Photo courtesy of Pavel Knettig.

Photo courtesy of Pavel Knettig.

Photo courtesy of Pavel Knettig.

It is a time of plenty for the diners; the last major feeding at nature’s table. Bleaker times lie ahead for them.

Photo courtesy of Pavel Knettig.