For the past three years, the Pender Harbour Rotary Club as well as other community members have been attempting to increase herring numbers by reducing egg mortality.
Herring are an essential part of a healthy marine ecosystem and are the principle food source for many species of fish, birds and marine mammals including humpback whales, seals, and dolphins.
Mature herring lay their small eggs in early spring on smooth surfaces such as kelp, eel grass and creosote piles, and hatch in 10 to 20 days.
Historically there was enough spawn to cover large areas of Pender Harbour and Bargain Bay with masses of feeding diving birds and gulls creating a raucous scene along the shores. In recent years the number of herring has been reduced to near collapse by over-fishing and loss of suitable spawning habitat. There is less kelp and eel grass in the Harbour than decades ago. Eggs laid on creosote pilings die before hatching.
By placing non-toxic, artificial spawning material in the right location, egg mortality is reduced. The herring curtains that we have fabricated are made of a heavy-duty landscape fabric, seven metres long by two metres deep. By tying the curtains alongside docks, they can be easily checked for spawn and pulled out for weekly cleaning. Although the Rotary Club has placed a few hundred feet of herring curtains each year, only a small percentage has had significant egg coverage.
The club is looking for input from the public about any areas where herring have consistently spawned on or near creosote piles where herring curtains would give an alternate, non-toxic spawning surface.