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
Simon Pallas (Hart 1980).
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.
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.
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.
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