March has come rather fast this year as February goes out with hopefully a last blast of winter weather. Though I herald the arrival of snow for it’s role in watershed re-charge I would like it to remain up in the hills and mountains and not covering my garden just as I start to get more active pruning, weeding etc.
March as I said last month will bring the [hopefully] Herring spawning along our shores. Just the other day I read a paper by Iain McKechnie, Dana Lepofsky and Ken Lertzman, “The baseline (data) that is used to assess biomass of herring and the allotment to the commercial fishery only begins in 1951,” said McKechnie. “The data doesn’t go back far enough, and it conveniently limits the goal of recovery as well.” The west coast herring fishery was closed for four years between 1968 and 1971 after a complete collapse of the population. DFO documents note that even after numbers rebounded, “some previously-favored spawning locations were no longer utilized on a regular basis.”
Oral histories from fishermen and First Nations people describe spawning areas and fishing grounds that were productive over generations, with native place names such as Ch’axa’y (Sizzling Water) and Teeshoshum (Waters White With Herring Spawn). Bone samples collected at Teeshoshum are composed of 90 per cent herring over 800 years, but no spawning has been recorded there since 1998.
As you can read we have done these very important fish a disservice through mismanagement which when you take into account the loss of forest cover and further mismanagement of our wild Salmon stocks you can see clearly why now is the time to take a serious look at the whole ecosystem we call the west coast and lobby government to take some drastic steps to try to get us back on course to a sustainable environment.
When I say sustainable I do not mean sustainability in the sense the word is bandied about these days in a feel good way while ignoring the inevitable collapse of our collective ecosystems. To be sustainable is to live within the means of our environment, not keep coming up with new reasons to move the goal posts.
This is no more evident than on the central coast where we all get a good feeling at the creation of the Great Bear Rain Forest touted as the savoir of the Bears and the once mighty forests that shrouded the coast which now as you read this the logging corporations are still going along full bore just over the hill out of sight of any marine traffic preserving what they call the visual corridor.
So while we all catch the Herring fever few realize that this is one if not the most destructive fishery we have on the coast which has such nock on effects that we cannot collectively comprehend the magnitude that this fishery has on all other fish stocks along our coast. When was the last time you enjoyed a plate of fresh Herring for lunch or dinner?? Never I often hear when I ask this question, a sad statement when at one time Herring did play an important role in the diets of the peoples of the west coast.
Among our first nations folk roe on seaweed was a very important food source, fires all along the foreshore roasting Herring was a regular sight now but a distant memory.
So here is a favorite recipe of mine for Star Gazey Pie if you are lucky to get some Herring.
Vegetables of choice or what you have available chopped into small chunks, sauté in olive oil with onions and garlic, remove from heat and prepare your fresh Herring by removing the internal organs and gills but leaving the head intact, [de scale] place veggies in baking dish with a little extra olive oil and some crushed tomatoes or a little water and tomato paste, salt and pepper, then carefully place the whole Herring around the pan with heads towards the middle.
Next comes the tricky part, prepare your favorite pastry recipe for a one crust pie, [the one on the Crisco box works great, freeze the Crisco and then grate into dough] roll out to fit pan, now you have to lay the crust on top and for the tricky bit gently slice the dough so that the Herring heads stick up out of the top of the crust in a nice circle around the centre of the pan. [Star Gazing] Bake at 425 for 30 to 40 minutes until crust is nice and brown. You can brush with egg white to get a nice even brown to the crust before you place in hot oven.
Serve with a nice salad of fresh greens with, if you can get some seaweed. The sea weed you see growing along the rocks that looks like a hand waving, [Fucus distichus ssp. Evanescens] common name Rockweed, not too appetizing looking when fresh. Pick from a non polluted spot then blanch in boiling water and it will turn a nice green then add to salad, yum. When picking seaweed to eat always go to the most remote spot you can find along the foreshore away from any form of pollution.
The Salish Sea has such diversity that due to our collective recklessness we have allowed the depletion of what was once one of the most productive bodies of water in the world. Pulp Mills, Chemical plants, Oil Refineries, Industrial run off and licensed discharge [so called safe limits, ppm], Storm drains [road runoff] Sewage discharge [often unprocessed or at best minimal], Household chemicals, Etc. Down the drain and into the sea, out of sight out of mind.
I could go on and on but you get the picture we have collectively allowed all this mostly due to government inaction and always being subservient to industry. [Oil sands, we all know how destructive they have become and the potential for even worse case scenarios if allowed to ship from our coast.]
In the year 2014 there is no sensible argument for any of the aforementioned to be allowed when weighed against the health of not only humans but also all flora & fauna that inhabit this coast. I know its jobs etc but we can have those jobs just not the pollution they create. The root cause is profit and greed so much so that now greed is considered an attribute to be admired as we all rush to achieve the consumer of the year award.