If you smell something fishy around French Creek don’t be alarmed.
RDN chair Joe Stanhope has lived in French Creek for more than 70 years and said he is “extremely familiar with this yearly occurrence.”
“People sometimes think the treatment plant is the source of the odor, but it is evident, particularly at this time of year, that the smell is the hydrogen sulfide from decomposing eggs,” said Stanhope.
An RDN news release issued April 15 explains thousands of Pacific herring return to Vancouver Island to spawn each spring.
“The Vancouver Island shore between Northwest Bay and the Little Qualicum River is currently in one of the most productive herring spawning areas of the B.C. coast.,” states the release. “In the French Creek area, seemingly endless numbers of herring deposit their eggs.”
This annual event turns the water turquoise blue and becomes a feeding frenzy for thousands of marine birds and mammals.
According to the release, the coastline received a significant deposit of herring spawn in the third week of March and some of the spawn will wash up on the beach and naturally decompose in the following weeks.
As the eggs begin to rot, they produce hydrogen sulfide, which gives off a foul odour. Depending on the direction of the winds, that odour can be detected for kilometres.
The release said the strength of the odour depends on how many eggs wash up on the beach, which is determined by the timing of high tides and storm events.
While spawning peaks in March, the odours can linger until June depending on the number of eggs that wash up.
— NEWS Staff