OLYMPIA - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will host meetings in June to discuss plans to survey public and private beaches around south Puget Sound for forage fish habitat.
The surveys are designed to determine where and when forage fish, such as surf smelt and Pacific sand lance, spawn in southern Puget Sound, said Phillip Dionne, WDFW research scientist.
"Forage fish play a critical role in the food web, providing nutrients for marine mammals, seabirds, salmon and even people," Dionne said. "We want to let landowners and beach-goers know our crews will be out on shorelines beginning in June, conducting research on forage fish for the next few years."
WDFW has scheduled two public meetings on June 2 to discuss the beach surveys. The first meeting will begin at 10 a.m., the second at 6 p.m. Both meetings will be held in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. SE, Olympia.
Landowners who don't want their properties to be included in the beach surveys can opt out by calling (360) 902-2552 or by filling out a form online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/research/projects/marine_beach_spawning/opt-out.html.
During the beach surveys, WDFW crews will collect sediment samples to test for fish spawn, photograph beach conditions and take measurements at beaches in Thurston, Mason and Pierce counties. Beach surveys generally take no more than one hour per location.
In all, state marine biologists plan to survey 450 miles of shoreline west of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge with the help of volunteers from Puget SoundCorps. Crews will cover 1,000-foot beach sections and conduct their work by boat and on foot.
"At the end of the project, WDFW will have a better understanding of what makes good habitat for forage fish," Dionne said.
He noted that an egg from a surf smelt or sand lance is about the size of a grain of sand, making it difficult for anyone to spot a spawning area with the naked eye.
For that reason, private landowners wouldn't necessarily know if their beaches are being used by forage fish to spawn.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about forage fish and spawning habitat can visit WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/research/projects/marine_beach_spawning/.
Twelve Puget SoundCorps volunteers will participate in the beach survey project. A part of the Washington Conservation Corps, Puget SoundCorps employs young adults and military veterans, who dedicate up to two years to work on projects designed to restore and protect Puget Sound.
Corps members receive job skills and experience while earning money to pay student loans or continue their education. For more on Puget SoundCorps, visit http://www.ecy.wa.gov/wcc/psc.html.