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Pacific Herring Clupea pallasi

The Pacific herring is in the scientific family Clupea that derives its name from the Latin root clupea meaning ‘herring’. Pallasi refers to Russian naturalist and explorer Simon Pallas (Hart 1980).


The Pacific herring in British Columbia spawns along beaches from February to July and mostly in March. Female herring produce about 19000 eggs when they reach 19 cm in length and 30,000 eggs when they reach 22 cm. A large herring weighs about 500 grams.  It is the immense number of herring that school along a few beaches and the enormous number of eggs that they lay that attracts so many predators. There are reports of spawning occurring along 250 kilometers of beach in British Columbia (Hart 1980). Eggs are laid between the high tide line to a depth of about 10 meters. The sticky eggs appear like tiny beads adhering to the rocky substrate, waterlogged branches and submerged vegetation.


For many kilometres around, the water turns milky white with the milt from the males. The eggs hatch after about 10 to 14 days. Larval herring eat diatoms and copepods and fall prey to filter feeding invertebrates, jellyfish, and other small fish. The diet of the larval herring includes planktonic barnacles and molluscs, and bryozoans. Large schools of herring begin to form through the summer while the herring grow large feeding on copepods. Young herring are abundant at the edge of the Fraser River plume in May and June (Hart 1980) where large concentrations of small plankton occur (Mackas and Fulton 1989).   First-year herring remain in the in the Strait of Georgia for their first year and swim to the west coast of Vancouver Island at 2 or 3 years of age where they mature into adults (Hart 1980). Growth is faster on the west coast of Vancouver Island but it is more dangerous there because of the large number of predators than in the Strait of Georgia.



Thousands of birds, and hundreds of marine mammals gather from February to May in southern British Columbia to feast on herring or their eggs. The late winter spectacle of wild animals mingling among the fishing fleet is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in the North Pacific. The spawning event repeats many times along the western shore of North America as different schools of fish leave the depths of the ocean for a brief attempt to spawn.



The eastern shore of Vancouver Island, British Columbia is a major spawning region for herring in Canada. The major market is for herring roe or ‘Kazunoko’ and herring roe on kelp or ‘Kazunoko Kombu’ for export to Japan.



For stock assessments in British Columbia and to learn more about the herring fishery visit the Fisheries and Oceans Canada web





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