Sunday, March 9, 2008

Watching all the Boats Go By, Waiting for the Herring

For the last few days, we've been watching fishing boats go past (mothership in front, herring punt attached and following behind), to the south

or to the north. Or south and north as in these two
or these.
Most travel slowly, as the first few above; this enforcement boat, heading south here, works up a good wake with its speed.Generally, they pass us one or two at a time, but once yesterday (when I didn't have time to grab my camera) six moved at various points within my view. Here's a shot of one cluster, although this is actually two motherships--longliners with their attached punts.They're all waiting for the herring to spawn and looking for the right place to be when that happens. For several years in a row, we were excited to have the spawn happen right in our little bay. Where we swim in the summer, the water was milky with the mix of roe and milt, and sea lions were exultantly bathing in an abundance of herring while seagulls screamed overhead, watching carefully for any bits they might catch. The beach was coated for days afterward with washed up eggs attached to strips of seaweed (and yes, it did become unpleasantly smelly for a short while, but it was well worth it!). The herring have passed us by the last few years, but I keep my fingers crossed that they'll return. This boat passed by early this morning, so my hope is still alive, like this license-holder's must be. . .This morning we saw a sealion in the bay, although I didn't bother photographing him -- I haven't a good enough zoom lens and all you would see is the dot of his head in the water. Paul's heading out for a paddle now (I can't go with him, having injured my shoulder) and maybe he'll bring back more fish news.


  1. Is herring mainly used as bait fish? Or is it for human consumption?

  2. Good question, Pseu. The most lucrative part of this fishery is in the roe which are removed from the female herring and processed for the Japanese market (for human consumption). What's left will primarily be rendered into pet food and perhaps fertilizer. I should add that the fishery (as with the fish themselves) is much, much reduced from earlier years and discussions are ongoing over whether it should take place at all.

  3. Imagine my surprise that a "herring punt" is actually a boat, and not an esoteric sport played by fishermen as I had hoped.


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