The Pacific Herring Run: Don’t Miss the Feast!

The Pacific Herring Run: Don’t Miss the Feast!

The Pacific Herring Run: Don’t Miss the Feast!

This time of year, the anticipation starts to build for the annual Pacific Herring run that attracts marine life from all over the coastal waters.  Peaking in March, this springtime spectacle is heralded by the arrival of massive schools of Pacific herring returning to the protected waters of the isles and inlets around Vancouver Island and coastal British Columbia.

Each female herring can produce 20,000 eggs, providing a buffet for marine birds, mammals, and fisherman, while ensuring the repopulation of the species. As the female’s roe matures, they start to school up and swim in denser formations closer to shore, where they eventually deposit their eggs which immediately adhere to the eelgrass, kelp, and vegetation to which they come into contact.

 Now it’s the males turn! A synchronized release of sperm (called ‘milt’) into the water is what turns that sea-green waters into a spectacular turquoise colour that can even be seen from space! 

Now this is the fun part! The resulting feeding frenzy of the pacific herring and their eggs is an action packed natural phenomenal that is not to be missed. Orca, sea lions, sea otters, eagles, cormorants, and an impressive list of other marine mammals and birds all show up for the bountiful feast. 

We have put together a few ways to experience the Pacific herring run here on beautiful Vancouver Island:

Dive it! 

Getting out for a dive in the waters to see the egg deposits and the variety of animals in the waters is a unique way to get up close and personal with the herring. Although the visibility is poor due to the milt, the best diving could be leading up to the event, when the sea lions and other mammals arrive to haul out wait for the short-lived spawning event to commence.

Watch from ashore. 

The herring spawn wildlife spectacle continues for two to three weeks. There are excellent viewing opportunities on the east coast of Vancouver Island, with French Creek often being a hot spot.

Get out on the water.

Boat, kayak, or even paddleboard are all ways to get out on the water to get up close and personal to all the action. Remember to always respect wildlife, and ensure you know how to safely navigate the challenging waterways around the island.

Get a birds-eye view

There are a variety of helicopter tourism companies on the island that can take you for a flight up to the glaciers and out over the ocean. A budget friendly option is drone footage which provides a rare perspective of the spawning event, and really gives you an idea of the scope of this massive event.

This spectacle is world renowned for good reason, and if you get the opportunity to experience any aspect of this natural wonder, we highly suggest you take it!