Sk’aal Gaay.ya (sea water getting milty with spawn)

Photo: Mary Helmer
Photo: Mary Helmer

Rhonda Lee McIsaac —

Xaana Kaahli Skidegate Inlet is turning a light milky blue along the shorelines. The result of early arrivals of iinang herring which are excitedly releasing their sperm. The tiny thin fish can be seen swimming in large schools and heard by the smallest sounds of splashing as they collectively surface and jump out of the water. The long trails of milky water stretch far along the rocky coastlinee. The milt or sperm also creates a foam and the contrasting colours can be seen from the air and high vantage points along the shore – it is herring spawning time!

The excitement of the spawn is palpable. The roadside is packed with vehicles parked in both directions. The thrill of two kun Gray whales working the outgoing tide to gorge on the passing juvenile iinang making their way along the shoreline is the main event. The kun are using their tails and flukes to slap the water to stun the herring into their waiting mouths. The whales then filter the water and sand through their baleen filters. It’s a tag team effort.

Other animals also know that the spawn-signs signal a harvest of fresh k’aaw in about three days’ time and they gather to enjoy the abundance of eggs and sperm. Guud Eagles swoop down into the kelp bed to pluck iinang from the ocean swells. Sea birds float in the water and pick off the iinang as they swim close to the top of the water and other ocean predators, including kay sea lions, xuud seals, k’aahl kelp crabs, and even Guuding.ngaay urchins enjoy the eggs in the kelp patches and t’aanuu eel grass gardens.

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