Like those who saw the Orcas in False Creek this month, resident Yael Stav was delighted. Unlike others, she was not surprised; she knew whales would follow the herring. But what caused the herring to return?

That’s a question she loves to answer.

Five years ago Yael and her Canadian-born partner Gordon left her native Israel looking for a kinder, gentler place to raise their three sons. They found it here.  

Enrolling the boys in False Creek Elementary, Yael hoped environmental issues could occupy a higher profile in the school. She encouraged a science project spearheaded by Dave Martin from the Greater Vancouver Floating Home Co-op (aka Spruce Harbour Marina) and Dr. Jonn Matsen of the Squamish Streamkeepers. Kids learned of the herring that once teemed in the Creek, conducting their own experiment with spawning nets hung from Caesar’s Bridge. 

Meanwhile the Squamish Streamkeepers continued with a herring project throughout the Creek. By 2018 there were 700 million eggs – and counting.

The herring project was a small aspect of Yael’s work that includes a PhD in Sustainable Design; three Jane’s Walks, including her most
recent (subject: Urban Agriculture) in False Creek; Village Vancouver vice-president (“building resilient sustainable communities”); courses taught at VanDusen, UBC Farm, and the City of Richmond in vertical gardening, indoor farming, drip irrigation; her focus on green building policies, passive energy homes, net zero neighbourhoods,  urban agriculture – plus her business in multidisciplinary sustainable design.

“We need to learn how to estimate energy, design a house built like a thermos, integrate plants in a built environment, attribute the value they really give.”

And the herring? 

“When people think about climate change they mostly think about energy”, she says, “but there needs to be a holistic approach. Nothing less than an integrated eco-system is needed. And that includes everything”.