OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is asking property owners to assist with a survey of forage fish spawning habitat in Puget Sound by granting department biologists access to private beaches along Camano Island.
The year-long survey, which begins in September, is designed to gather information on forage fish spawning activity, a major element of a project under way by the Puget Sound Action Team. The shoreline survey will focus on the spawning habitat and activity of surf smelt and Pacific sand lance (candlefish) along Camano Island.
Both species spawn and incubate their eggs on sandy-gravel beaches near the high-tide line during certain times of year. The forage fish feed upon plankton communities and, in turn, are fed upon by larger predators such as salmon, marine mammals and seabirds.
“We really appreciate property owners’ cooperation as we go about surveying these beaches,” said Timothy Quinn, Ph.D, WDFW’s chief habitat scientist. “Our goal is to conserve Puget Sound’s marine ecosystem, and a further understanding of forage fish and their spawning activity will greatly help with that effort.”
Fifty sites along the island’s shoreline will be randomly selected for the survey. Each site will be visited twice a month during the year. A two-person WDFW crew, working in small boats at low tide, will survey the sites. The beach surveys generally will be conducted between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.
Most site visits will take about 15 minutes. However, in the spring of 2008, biologists will conduct a more detailed survey, which will take about 1.5 hours at each site.
During each visit, biologists will collect a small sample of beach material, and record characteristics of the local shoreline. Sampling activity generally occurs several yards laterally seaward of the mean high-tide line.
Private land owners who do not wish to grant beach access are asked to contact WDFW by Sept. 15 with their street address and, if possible, property boundary details such as latitudes/longitudes and a plat map. Access denials should be submitted to Tiffany Hicks, by calling (360) 902-2544, by email email@example.com, or by mail: 600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, 98501. Survey workers also will immediately comply with property owners’ verbal requests to leave private beaches during the survey work.
In addition to the survey, WDFW invites waterfront landowners to submit information and observations on forage fish spawning activity. Information collected on documented forage fish spawning activity by specific sites or regions will be made available on a public database.
As part of the forage fish project, WDFW biologists will be available to present study results and other information on forage fish to interested community groups. To arrange for an informational presentation or to submit spawning activity data, contact Dan Penttila by calling (360) 466-4345, ext. 242, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For general information about forage fish, visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/forage/forage.htm on the WDFW website.