EDITORIAL: Herring have drawing power

The herring have made their annual migration to the shores of Parksville Qualicum Beach, and have brought with them the usual cast of marine mammals, birds and fishing boats all seeking a share of the tasty morsels they provide.

The herring have also ushered in the unlikely spectacle of commercial fishing as a spectator sport.

Hundreds of people, locals and visitors alike, flocked to the rocky shore and breakwater of French Creek marina, to the wide sandy beach of Parksville and to the bluffs overlooking Parksville Bay to take in the spectacle.

Sure, sport fishing programming has appeared on television for decades. Especially in the U.S., where the genre is so popular it spawned its own network, the World Fishing Network.

More recently, even commercial fishing has found its way to the screen, through the Deadliest Catch series that allows viewers a glimpse on board crab boats in the hazardous Bering Sea off Alaska’s coast.

But you don’t find people travelling to gather on the storm-tossed coast of Alaska to train their telephoto lenses on crab boats that have long-since left sight of shore.

The herring run along B.C.’s southern coast is unique in that it brings the fishery to the doorsteps of a populated area. And the population has taken notice.

Beginning Friday evening and continuing well into Sunday, people stormed the beach with cameras, binoculars, phones or simply a set of eyeballs to take in the show. Some took to kayaks or small boats to paddle on the periphery of the action as the shutters snapped.

Supported by a welcome break in the weather that brought blue skies and spectacular sunsets, spectators were treated not only to the sight of fishers hauling in nets crammed with glittering herring, but to many species of birds wheeling and swooping for their share, as sea lions performed a stately parade in the foreground.

Social media comments to The NEWS ranged from former residents who told us they miss the frenzy of the herring run since moving from the area, to newcomers who said they had been told of it but were still awed to see the waters offshore change colour before their eyes.

The Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism Association gives our coast a place of prominence in its promotion of the region, with specific links on its website to Harbours & Marinas and to beaches in Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Lighthouse Country to the north.

The uncertain date of the fishing opening from year-to-year might make it problematic from a scheduling standpoint. But the people have spoken, and they’re saying the herring run deserves its place in the sun.

— Parksville Qualicum Beach News

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