Spring Trips / Herring Spawn & Wildlife Extravaganza
Hail to the Herring!
Eagles swoop in to grab herring from the surface.
The widely distributed Pacific Herring biomass is an essential resource for the existence of almost all marine wildlife in the Pacific Northwest. The herrings annual spring spawning event is a celebration of this absolutely essential component of Southeast Alaska’s natural environment.
Eagles gather by the thousands lining the tress along the shoreline with their majestic white heads. The eagles’ keen eyesight and winter long hunger helps create a more than formidable aerial presence with their continual elegant dives catching herring by the talon full. Seals and Steller sea lions rush through the tremendous schools of herring that ribbon the shallow waters along the shoreline. Humpback whales demonstrate a variety of forage techniques to capture the extremely elusive schools of herring. It is even not uncommon for us to observe the whales fascinating cooperative ‘bubble-net’ feeding behavior up close. And of course, what marine wildlife party in SE Alaska would be complete without an appearance of the oceans top predator the killer whale. The orca’s nomadic travels most definitely include a ‘shopping trip’ to the buffet presented by the herring’s arrival to spawn along beautiful isolated beaches.
Netted herring being transfered to a holding pen for roe harvesting.
Tlingit natives of Southeast Alaska revere and celebrate the herring spawn by placing hemlock branches in the water to collect a thick layer of herring eggs laid on the bows. This produces a highly prized, rich delicacy that is often dipped in seal oil.
Pacific Herring is also a commercially-fished resource. Historically, the herring were caught and rendered for their rich oil or reduced to make fish meal. More recently, uses for commercially-caught herring have included a limited food market, bait for other fisheries and food for zoo animals. The largest current commercial herring fishery is for the eggs, or roe, kazunoko which is a very expensive and cherished delicacy in Japan.
A major herring spawn event that occurs in March along the shores of Sitka which is one of the largest spring herring spawning occurrences on the west coast of North America. The huge biomass attracts many species of wildlife comprising a spectacle of many thousands of animals which come to feast on the vulnerable rich fish. There is an amazing commercial harvest for the herring for the primary purpose of providing a Japanese delicacy of 'Kazunoko' or herring eggs. Alaska Sea Adventures will be feature a special trip to Sitka to observe and photograph this amazing event.
Sea lions on the prowl for herring.
And of course, when you join us on our special Spring Wildlife Extravaganza Trips, you’ll witness this amazing event up-close-and-personal on Alaska Sea Adventures Hoonah Sound Trip in April and the Seymour Canal Trip the first week of May.
You don’t want to miss this once-a-year-spring only event! It’s a photographers dream as an abundance of wildlife gather to feast on the vulnerable herring as they move near shore to lay their eggs.
As Jim Nahmens wrote in his article, For the Love of Herring: “It just so happens that the herring attract all the animals we love to see. Find the herring and watch the show!” We know where to find the herring! (Click here to read Jim’s article about herring)
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