Pacific Herring Recovery Project – Fishermen’s Wharf

The False Creek Harbour Authority, in partnership with the Squamish Streamkeepers Society, have been working towards enhancing the spawning potential of the Pacific Herring in local waters. False Creek was once teeming with these fish as they came to spawn in the millions in the area once known as ‘Snauq’ to the local native tribes, but decades of industrialization in the creek drastically affected the ability of Herring to spawn by removing and contaminating their natural habitat.

The Herring kept returning to spawn, though without a suitable environment for the roe to mature, their numbers slowly dwindled to near non-existence, a dangerous proposition for a food-fish that serves as a vital link in the ocean food chain. In recognition of this, the Squamish Streamkeepers have worked on a number of suitable alternatives over the last few years to draw the Herring away from contaminated pile surfaces here at Fishermen’s Wharf where hatch out was believed to be below 5%.

We first wrapped a number of piles with enviroliner to protect the roe from the harmful chemicals contained within the wood piles, which resulted in an approximate 50% hatch-out, mostly due to surface contamination in the inter-tidal zone of the pilings. With limited success through this endeavour, it was back to the drawing board and a new method was devised to use weighted nets to keep the roe below the surface at all times, trying our best to mimic natural habitat for spawning like eel grass or a kelp bed, and we had a near perfect hatch-out estimated to be approximately 95% from this second effort! Each net is estimated to hatch out approximately 2 million Herring larvae.

2017 is the first cycle of returning Herring from year 1 of our efforts, so we are hoping for a healthy number of fish ready to spawn. In anticipation of this, we have doubled the amount of nets in the water to encourage the best possible number of roe to reach maturity. Check out the video below to see the spawning in action here at Fishermen’s Wharf and check out our Facebook page for more herring info.