Brilliant bubblegum blue: Eye-catching herring spawn filmed off B.C. coast

Click to play video: 'Spawning herring turn water off coast of Vancouver Island turquoise'
Spawning herring turn water off coast of Vancouver Island turquoise
Nature put on a spectacular show off the coast of Ucluelet on Vancouver Island this weekend. Spawning herring converged off a popular beach, where a local photographer captured the turquoise waters. As Kylie Stanton reports, there's something special about this year's event. – Mar 18, 2024

A video capturing a natural phenomenon off the Vancouver Island coast is generating interest worldwide.

Every year, when the herring spawn, the water turns turquoise like a bubblegum or cotton candy blue.

Geoff Johnson, a photographer in Ucluelet who runs the channel UkeeTube, had always wanted to capture the herring spawn and this year was his chance.

“This year, the planets aligned, it was a beautiful sunny day, I got the heads up, in time,” he said.

According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), herring plays an important role in B.C.’s rich ecosystem but their numbers have been declining over the years.

Click to play video: 'Herring sale charity event supporting BC Children’s Hospital'
Herring sale charity event supporting BC Children’s Hospital

“DFO is committed to managing Pacific herring fisheries to ensure that there are enough herring to spawn and sustain the stock into the future and support its role in the ecosystem,” the organization said in a statement.

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“This year’s total allowable catch (TAC) for Pacific herring (is) 9,251 metric tonnes, slightly higher than the TAC in 2022-23 of 7,044 metric tonnes.”

In addition, for the 2023-24 season, closures are in place for commercial fisheries in Haida Gwaii, the west coast of Vancouver Island and Area 10 (Smith Inlet). Limited commercial fishing and harvesting will be available in some other areas.

A look at the herring spawn off the coast of Vancouver Island – turning the water a stunning blue. Geoff Johnson
A look at the herring spawn off the coast of Vancouver Island – turning the water a stunning blue. Geoff Johnson

Johnson knew what he was capturing, describing it more cheekily.

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“Scientifically, what’s happening is there’s literally a million fish in there fornicating,” he said.

“So it’s all reproductive fluids and eggs and stuff, and it adds this milky quality to the water. Interestingly, the way light hits water, especially in the reflections and everything, it’s a very different experience to see from various angles.”

Johnson said the angles of the photographs optimized the colour of the water. Using the drone, Johnson said he was able to get the best shot.

When he was on the beach, he said onlookers could see fish jumping around, sea lions trying to catch herring and even some amphibians jumping into the water, swimming out to try and catch a snack and swimming back.

Click to play video: 'Saving False Creek herring spawn'
Saving False Creek herring spawn

Once he uploaded the footage and placed it on Facebook and YouTube, Johnson said the response was amazing, with people asking questions and marveling at the footage.

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“Because even though it happens every year, you never know where it’s going to happen, how big it’s going to be, how long it’s going to last,” he said.

While he is happy to share the natural beauty of Vancouver Island, Johnson said people need to be respectful of nature.

“Like any natural phenomenon or any species, any animals, or any animal activity – any nature really – stay as distant as you can to have the experience that you want because nature exists, or at least the way we really enjoy it, outside of humanity,” he said.

Johnson is happy to share beautiful B.C. with the world and has lots of videos on his channel.

“If you’re watching a series of the great events in nature, you know, there’s a bunch of them that take place around the salmon run, the whale migration and the herring spawn – all happen right here on Vancouver Island,” he said.

“So, if you have any interest in nature or science, it’s a pretty cool place to be.”

A look at the herring spawn off the coast of Vancouver Island – turning the water a stunning blue. Geoff Johnson

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