Along our shorelines, forage fish species spawn and juvenile salmon feed. We are mostly aware of herring, but did you know that Pacific Sand Lance, Capelin, and Surf Smelt spawn on sandy and pebble beaches right at our feet? These “forage fish” species are the cornerstone of marine food webs and are essential food for seabirds, marine mammals, and fish. For example, juvenile salmon forage along the high tide line, feeding on land-based insects swept to the ocean’s surface by winds, and on tiny invertebrates living within the beach seaweed wrack line.
Communities throughout the Salish Sea are working with biologists to better understand and protect these critical fish habitats. In May 2014, Sea Watch Society Executive Director and Scientist, Ramona de Graaf, joined us on Bowen Island for a fascinating evening talk titled “More than a Pretty Beach: Marine shorelines are critical fish habitats”. Ramona is a marine biologist and oversees the province-wide research program to document and protect beach spawning forage fish habitat.
The day after the evening presentation, on a very wet morning, Ramona led a beach tour at Pebbly Beach on Deep (Mannion) Bay. Classes from the Bowen Island Community School toured the beach with Ramona after the public walk.
In August 2014, in conjunction with the Bowen Nature Club and the Bowen Island Eco-Alliance, we co-sponsored a full day Forage Fish Beach Survey Workshop, and this led to the formation of a local Island team that conducted periodic surveys of select Bowen beaches to test for forage fish eggs, up to the end of 2016.
2014 Forage Fish Habitat Assessment Report
Ramona de Graaf has provided a report on Forage Fish Spawning Habitat Suitability Assessments to our Municipality, and to the Island Trust.