Auction alert!! Tune into my Instagram account @art_by_di to bid on this painting in support of Pacific Wild’s Project GBEAR!
The auction will commence Wednesday October 16th at 4:00 pm and run until Friday October 18th 11:59:59 pm PST. 100% of the winning bid will be donated to help Pacific Wild recover herring fisheries in BC. See additional details below!
Along the BC coast there lives a small, silver fish. This #littlebigfish plays a vital role in the food chain of our coastal ecosystem. It’s the Pacific Herring, Clupea pallasii. They can be found from California all the way north to Alaska and the Bering Sea, and south again to Japan. But the power of this fish comes not only from it’s numbers – they form huge schools with impressive biomass. Even more so it is from the millions of tiny eggs and milk released during a spawn.
The importance of herring and their spawn is something the First Nations of the Northwest Coast have known for millenia. It was back in 2009 when I was fortunate to participate in a joint research program between the Tla’amin First Nation and Simon Fraser University. Most notably we were looking to bridge oral histories with zoological and archaeological evidence for herring fisheries on the coast. The result was clear. Over the past 7,000 years in Tla’amin, and over 10,000 years elsewhere on the coast, herring was abundant. Certainly they played a vital role in the ecosystem and the diets of the peoples who live here.
First of all herring live a long time. Actually, a very long time, for such a small fish. Adults live on average 10 years and perhaps up to 20, and return to their native waters to spawn every year. Spawning takes place in shallow, sheltered bays and estuaries where females might lay up to 20,000 eggs each. Preferred spawning materials include eelgrass (Zostera), bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) and bladderwrack (Fucus).
Each year, usually in March, the shallow waters of British Columbia are said to turn white with spawn. Or at least they used to… I have lived on this coast for 35 years (25 of those on Indian Arm and 7 on Bowen Island, both known for supporting pre-historical herring populations) and have yet to witness this great event. Certainly the herring and their life cycle is a critical foundation for many animals on the coast. Most noteworthy sea birds, humpback whales, chinook salmon, black bears and sea wolves, to name a few.
Commercial fishing of herring in British Columbia began in 1877. Due to over-exploitation herring fisheries up the down the coast have collapsed. Georgia Straight remains the only one out of five BC populations that is relatively healthy and still open to industrial collection. 20% of Georgia Straight’s herring are harvested annually using gill nets for “kazunoko” roe bound for Japanese markets; the rest is turned into fish meal to feed pets and farmed salmon. Because of this method of collecting the roe adult fish are caught prior to spawn.
DFO’s assessment of what constitutes a healthy herring fishery looks to be based on 1950’s data and we know that population levels were already depleted at that time. In contrast to this data my own experience of pulling ancient herring bones out of the ground confirms what the coastal First Nations have always known. Herring was once far, far, far more abundant than it is now.
Pacific Wild is calling for action to address the management of the Georgia Straight population and other herring stocks in BC. Due to collapse they suggest a transition to a more sustainable spawn-on-kelp harvesting, where eggs are collected after the spawn. Similarly this technique has been used by First Nations for thousands of years. As a result it allows spawning adults to continue to live and return year after year to reproduce.
I was inspired to highlight the situation facing Pacific Herring in this 12″x12″ painting ‘Herring and Bladderwrack”. Above all else these fish and their spawn is critical to life on the coast, but they are also remarkably beautiful to boot.
How to bid:
- Visit my Instagram account @art_by_di for the start of the auction on Wednesday October 16th at 4:00 pm PST
- Place bid by commenting on the post
- Starting bid of $100 CAD with minimum bidding increments of $10
- Auction ends Friday October 18th at 11:59:59 pm PST
- 100% of the winning bid will be donated to Pacific Wild’s Project GBEAR
- Buyer is responsible for shipping charges (international shipping available)