Herring key food for land-based species: study

Sarah Petrescu / Times Colonist
January 11, 2014
Scientists on Vancouver Island have for the first time linked spawning Pacific herring, a well-known marine food fish, to the health of land creatures big and small.

“We often talk about how salmon subsidize and influence ecosystems by providing food but herring are also one of these species — and we have them in abundance,” said Caroline Fox, the lead researcher on a study released by the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the University of Victoria. After a worrisome decline, herring stocks look to be bouncing back.

While the effects of herring on marine life have been studied, scientists haven’t really looked at what happens in other ecosystems when waves of eggs wash ashore during spawning.

“It is a spectacular natural event,” Fox said, describing a milky wave of fish sperm that fertilize eggs on gravel, beach and kelp beds, with birds flocking to feed…

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