OLYMPIA—The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is asking property owners to assist in a survey of Puget Sound forage fish spawning habitat by granting department biologists access to private beaches in Mason, Pierce, Kitsap and King counties.
The survey—scheduled over the next two years—is designed to gather information on forage fish spawning as part of the Puget Sound Action Team’s Forage Fish Project. The shoreline survey will focus on the spawning habitat and activity of surf smelt and Pacific sand lance (candlefish) in central Puget Sound.
Both species spawn and incubate their eggs only on sandy-gravel beaches near the high tide 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.
“These two species, along with Pacific herring, are a critically important link in the Puget Sound marine food web, and learning more about their spawning activity is an essential part of the larger effort to preserve the Sound’s marine ecosystem,” said WDFW Habitat Biologist Dan Penttila. “We appreciate property owners’ cooperation in this important study.”
Each beach visit will take approximately five minutes, and will be conducted by a two-person WDFW crew, working in small boats at low tide. The beach surveys generally will be conducted between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, during estimated spawning seasons.
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 Oct. 24 with their street address and, if possible, property boundary details such as latitudes/longitudes, a plat map or an aerial photo depicting non-permitted property properties. Access denials should be submitted to Tiffany Hicks, by calling (360) 902-2544, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org . 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 are 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 email@example.com .
For general information about forage fish, visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/forage/forage.htm on the WDFW website.