Recently, Laura James, award winning underwater photographer and videographer, environmentalist, and a citizen scientist, serendipitously spotted a large herring spawning event along the shore in West Seattle on Alki beach.
It makes for a cool picture, yes, but there is something even more important happening here making this discovery even more exciting! Herring is a species that is quite sensitive to pollution. At one time they were abundant in the Salish Sea, but over the last century have been steadily declining as industry was on the rise. Thanks to the formation of the EPA and regulations around pollution, the trend has been slowly reversing. The discovery of these eggs doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet, but it is an exciting sign that we are on the right track.
Harbor seals and other generalist predators in the region prefer eating forage fish like herring over salmon. Increased herring presence actually relieves the predation stress on salmon and helps salmon populations flourish. It's all about having a healthy food web! Eggs attach to eelgrass and sargassum beds, that means we need to keep an eye out for where we’re walking at low tides. If you are on the beach in West Seattle and spot herring eggs, you are encouraged to take pictures and post one or two on Instagram with the hashtag #alkiherring and geotag, with that, citizen scientists can tag beaches so scientists and WDFW's Ecological Integrity Monitoring Program can perform surveys of the area.
Just 2 short weeks after her first report of eggs, Laura spotted the resulting fry from the spawning event!
A big Thank You to Laura James for bringing this awesome natural event to our attention, providing great photos, and for being such a great environmental steward!