Those living in earshot of Trial Islands rapidly became accustomed to a 3 a.m. wake-up call of the natural kind as sea lions and seals rattled the cages of residents this winter.
The raucous sealife stopped on the Oak Bay shoreline and set up house starting in December, moving along by the end of February.
After nearly three months, the gang moved on, but Jacques Sirois, a volunteer warden at the Trial Islands Ecological Preserve, hopes it’s a harbinger of another healthy herring spawn on the way.
The Oak Bay man lives not far from the shore, and happily heard the cacophony for three months.
It’s not so much that he loves to see such a huge number, and knows full well folks love to hate the noisy beasts, but it may mean more from an environmental aspect.
“It signals that something may be happening with the herring,” Sirois said. “It looks like the planets are in line for another spawning event in March 2023. In the last year, we’ve seen all kinds of things that suggest there is a bit more herring.”
The Pacific herring spawn, that bloomed milky white waters near Fisgard Lighthouse and Esquimalt Lagoon last spring, was the first in a decade.
Sirois points to myriad species of birds alighting across the region this fall as another potential indication of a healthy herring population. Then there’s the rebounding humpback whale population.
A jump in documented humpback whales in the waters off B.C. in 2022 marked what’s being called a “humpback comeback” by those in the businesses of preservation.
Nearly 400 humpbacks were documented in the Salish Sea – 396 individuals – among them 34 mothers and their first-year calves.
“We see things happening out there that suggest there’s a fair amount of herring out there at this point, no where near where it used to be 100 years ago, but … sea lions is one of those signs,” he said.
While that party may have moved north, Sirois hopes to see them return bringing milky clouds to the Salish Sea this month.
Falling in the Lekwungen Traditional Territory, known today as the Esquimalt and Songhees nations, points to a historically high population as Lekwungen translates to “place to smoke herring.”
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.