WEST SEATTLE WILDLIFE: Major herring spawning happening along local shores


(First two photos by Kersti Muul)

What you see in Kersti Muul‘s photo above aren’t bubbles – they’re herring eggs. And their presence is “a big deal,” we’re hearing from her and from “Diver Laura” James tonight. This area is not a documented Puget Sound spawning ground for herring (this infosheet shows the areas that are), so wildlife watchers have nothing to compare it to – but they’re seeing not only the eggs, but also sea lions offshore feasting on the herring (that explains the second photo in this gallery we published early today, as well as other reports of sea-lion groups offshore last weekend), and gulls with beakfuls of herring:

Kersti says, “I encourage people to be on the lookout for it as well, and to tread lightly right now in the nearshore during these very low tides!” She has been in contact with the state Fish and Wildlife Department, as has Diver Laura, who says WDFW will be sending somebody up for a firsthand look. Here’s a closeup photo she shared tonight:


(Photo by “Diver Laura” James)

Because this isn’t a historic spawning ground, the state hasn’t historically sampled here, so, she explains, “we simply have zero data,” and it’s not known yet whether this is a return or a cycle. Both point out that the significance of this might also be future effects on construction and other activities on the shore, since without documentation of this previously, there are no rules/laws about habitat protection.

P.S. Here’s more background information about herring in Puget Sound. Followups to come!

17 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE WILDLIFE: Major herring spawning happening along local shores"

  • diverlaura May 1, 2017 (8:54 pm)

    Such a treat to see nature in action!  

    If you want to get involved in the citizen science efforts to help point the scientists in the right direction (they are going to have a massive area to survey) it would be amazing if beach walkers, tide poolers and home owners could take a gander at appropriately accessible waterfront, and if you find eggs (they are tiny, and can be sparse) take a picture and either load to instagram with the #alkiherring  (and we can slurp them into a map if you have location data turned on – similar to what we did with #sickstarfish) or you can email them to me laura @ tox-ick.org  (or WDFW or Kristie or even WSB I imagine and they’ll get to the right place)  

    Additionally i’ve chatted with some local homeowners and assorted shore-goers who have shown interest in some citizen science training in the area of Forage Fish egg survey, not just herring which can be a bit more obvious but also Sandlance and surf smelt.   Please let me know if you have interest in that, and we can get something put together where the experts come show us how its done so we can help document the precious nearshore!  

    • Lil herger May 2, 2017 (10:27 am)

      Yes I would be interested in learning how to conduct shoresurveys

    • Burt Miller May 4, 2017 (11:30 am)

      I would be interested in citizen Forage Fish training.

  • Eaglelover May 1, 2017 (10:42 pm)

    West point outflow, just wondering.

  • sc May 2, 2017 (8:51 am)

    Does anyone remember the episode of the Beverly Hillbillies “The Grunion Invasion”?

  • Melissa May 2, 2017 (9:30 am)

    Very cool! Herring has been documented in Elliott Bay in recent years by ecologists at Puget Sound Institute (Dr. Tessa Francis) and NOAA Fisheries … here is a story about it from a few years ago: http://crosscut.com/2013/05/new-phenomena-seattles-near-shore-waters-spawning/

  • Eleni Petrou May 2, 2017 (10:07 am)

    Hi all! On what beach is this happening? Is this at Alki?

    • WSB May 2, 2017 (10:26 am)

      Multiple West Seattle beaches, I’m told. Including Constellation Park.

    • Kersti Muul May 2, 2017 (11:36 am)

      So far: Constellation, South Lincoln, N. Alki Beach

      Laura has started more surveys; here’s her map from yesterday. Red=eggs, purple=no eggs

      No automatic alt text available.

  • Coldheart Craig May 2, 2017 (2:23 pm)

    Potentially related to the millions of gallons of raw sewage recently spilled into the Sound?

    • AT May 2, 2017 (6:47 pm)

      I was about to ask if herring spawn was as good to eat as other fish eggs, but on second thought …

      • WSB May 2, 2017 (6:52 pm)

        Well, they certainly are for the wildlife.

  • John May 2, 2017 (7:24 pm)

    I once  worked a ‘herring roe on kelp’ fishery in Bristol Bay Alaska. The roe still attached to the kelp was salted and packed in small wooden  boxes for export to Japan, where it is  a delicacy.

  • Jake from State Farm May 2, 2017 (10:10 pm)

    This is great that wild life is flourishing on Alki, but it does create more question though.

    What quantities are you talking about compared to other location?

    Why at this location? Can it be duplicated?

    Is there another location that is diminishing? 

    Are the condition at Alki go for a high survival rate? Or the opposite, is it so easy pickings for predators to erase this production?

  • Diverlaura May 2, 2017 (10:11 pm)

    Updated beach observations from this afternoon.  Red is where I observed eggs (more red – more eggs), purple no eggs.

    I’m working on the community forage fish survey stuff and will keep WSB in the loop as well as email those who have touched base with progress…

  • Todd May 5, 2017 (5:04 pm)

    This spawning event is the furthest south we’ve documented for the Elliot Bay stock. The stock (not genetically distinct with current methods, so related to most other “stocks” in Puget Sound) was first detected by the Olympic Sculpture garden by Roy Clark (DFW) in 2012. It is a relatively small spawning event compared to other areas but may be growing. Google the 2012 WDFW herring stock report for more info; a new version will be out later  this year. We did a survey this past Wednesday and confirmed much of the spawning area from Alki pt. north. Thanks for all the info, we really appreciate it.

    Todd  Sandell, DFW

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