Locally and across the globe, forage fish play a critical role in marine ecosystems, transferring energy from plankton to larger fish, seabirds and marine mammals.
In San Juan County, two species of forage fish – the surf smelt and Pacific sand lance – use the upper regions of sand and gravel beaches to incubate their eggs. A decade ago, Friends of the San Juans partnered with the San Juan County Marine Resources Committee, Friday Harbor Labs and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to survey and map spawning sites. To date, forage fish spawning has been documented on ten miles of shoreline in San Juan County. With support from the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, additional field surveys are planned for 2013 and 2014, focusing on priority regions and sites that have not yet been surveyed.
“The protection and restoration of known forage fish spawning beaches is a top salmon recovery priority in the San Juans,” said said Barbara Rosenkotter, San Juan County’s salmon recovery coordinator. “Resources are available to assist both public and private landowners in improving stewardship of these essential beach habitats- but we also need to expand our understanding of where these fish spawn.”
Volunteers are needed to assist with the boat-based field surveys beginning this summer. A volunteer training with regional and local forage fish experts Dan Penttila, Tina Whitman and Lety Hopper will be held in Friday Harbor on Saturday, May 11 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., accommodating the interisland ferry schedule. Pre-registration is required.
For more information or to register for the volunteer training, contact Tina Whitman at Friends at 378-2319 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see surf smelt spawning on Shaw Island see the video created by Friend’s intern Tessa Wyllie-Echeverria: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3jy7UoYJkc.