Wednesday May 4, 2022

Tacoma News Tribune

Ah, spring in the Puget Sound. Sunnier days, overflowing baskets of colorful flowers, and spawning season for Pacific herring. Pacific herring are a forage fish. Alongside surf smelt, Pacific sand lance, northern anchovies, eulachon, Pacific sardines, and longfin smelt, they are a critical piece of the Puget Sound’s food web. Forage fish are a crucial food source for marine mammals, birds, and other fish — including Pacific salmon. Extensive surveys are conducted every year on these little fish to better understand their distribution of spawning and abundance. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is also trying to ensure better protection for surf smelt and Pacific sand lance by studying the habitat they spawn in, especially given current and changing environmental conditions. Washington’s Pacific herring fishery has seen variations in numbers since it opened in the ‘70s. WDFW tracks herring abundance by weight. Generally, the ‘70s and ‘80s saw estimates exceed 20,000 tons, then plummet to estimates below 10,000 tons in the ‘90s. Put into perspective — a good year of 10,000 tons of herring roughly translates to 250 million fish.

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