A frenzy of fish captured people’s attention on White Rock’s waterfront Christmas Day – and much later into the evening.
The small swimmers – which the department of fisheries and oceans have identified as anchovy – have drawn dozens of seals and sea lions to Semiahmoo Bay in recent weeks, to dine on the shimmery creatures.
But while daytime photos and video submitted to Peace Arch News from Christmas Day show a flurry of activity as the fish circled and writhed through the waters, photos from around midnight depict a stark contrast; all of dead fish.
“Millions of fish on the White Rock beach at midnight at low tide last night,” writes Su Gu in a morning email to PAN Dec. 26.
“Never seen anything like this here.”
Fisheries researchers describe the situation as a natural occurrence. UBC’s director of marine mammal research Andrew Trites told CTV it was likely due to the large number of the anchovies in one area depleting the oxygen, causing many of the fish to suffocate.
Friday, the flurry of sea lion and seagull activity continued, as did people flocking to the waterfront to witness it.
“This is awesome,” said one young visitor as a sea lion surfaced briefly near the pier after fetching a mouthful of the tasty treats.
“Nom nom,” said another passerby.
Luva Lynne Atitlan, who came down with her partner Don Sturgeon to see the excitement for herself after reading about it in PAN, said the scene is one she’s never witnessed in her nearly four decades in White Rock.
“I’ve lived here (36) years and this is the first time I ever saw seals off the pier,” she said.
“I said, ‘we just have to go down and see it,’” she said. “And it’s lovely for everyone.”
Steve Puleo visited to take advantage of the anchovies’ demise, filling a bucket with the tiny carcasses to use for fertilizer in his garden.
He said while the smelts come in every year, he, too, has “never” witnessed the likes of what’s been seen this time around.
Add in the sea lion activity and “it’s really quite spectacular,” he said.