A comprehensive guide to help local planning officials protect marine fish spawning areas in Puget Sound has been developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) with a grant provided by the Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team (PSWQAT).
Intended as a resource for local government agencies that make land-use decisions involving waterfront construction and other activities, the guide includes 151 maps of spawning areas used by herring, surf smelt, sand lance and rock sole.
All four species spawn in intertidal or very shallow waters at specific locations throughout Puget Sound, in near-shore areas that are vulnerable to destruction through human activities such as bulkheading, dredging and industrial development.
"This guide, which incorporates more than two decades of habitat surveys by Department scientists, is just one of many efforts we are making to provide local governments with the scientific tools and resources they need to make sound decisions that protect fish resources," said Dr. Jeff Koenings, WDFW director.
Herring, surf smelt and sand lance are important food sources for salmon and other fish species, as well as seabirds and marine mammals. In addition, herring is one of seven Puget Sound marine fish species under consideration for federal species protection listings by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
Developed with $10,000 in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funds administered through the PSWQAT, the guide is based on habitat surveys conducted since 1972 and is published in a loose-leaf format that can be updated as new survey data becomes available.
"This is exactly the kind of information Puget Sound cities and counties need to better protect vital nearshore habitat," said Nancy McKay, chair of the Action Team. "I applaud the Department of Fish and Wildlife for putting this information together and getting it into the hands of local government decision-makers. The information ought to be useful for watershed planning, salmon recovery efforts, and shoreline management," McKay said.
Copies of the guide, entitled "Critical Spawning Habitat for Herring, Surf Smelt, Sand Lance and Rock Sole in Puget Sound," are available from the WDFW Fish Program, which may be contacted at (360) 902-2700.
Related link: Washington Forage Fish Website