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Washington Department of Natural Resources - Aquaitic Reserves Program – Puget Sound Corps Team Forage Fish Spawning Habitat Surveys

By Geoffrey Mayhew


Two common forage fish species, surf smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus) and Pacific sand lance (Ammodytes hexapterus), spawn on sand-gravel beaches in the upper intertidal throughout Washington state’s coastal shoreline. Forage fish are small schooling fish that are a key prey species for marine mammals, fish, and birds. It is therefore crucial to identify beaches used by forage fish to assess health of stocks and ensure the survival of forage fish populations and predator species. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) protects documented surf smelt and sand lance spawning sites from impacts of shoreline development. In an effort to update and fill gaps in the dataset, a team of Puget SoundCorps (PSC) members, sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Aquatic Reserves Program, conducts monthly beach-spawning forage fish surveys on state-owned aquatic lands within the seven aquatic reserves throughout Puget Sound. The data is used by WDFW habitat managers and the DNR to guide management decisions. Trained in field and laboratory protocols by Daniel Penttila (formerly WDFW) and Phillip Dionne (WDFW), the PSC team provides instruction, sample analysis, and QA/QC to Citizen Stewardship Committees (CSCs). As of December 2013, the PSC has analyzed 1,626 sediment samples. Of these samples, 1,331 were collected by the PSC and 295 were collected by CSCs. Surf smelt spawning was documented at 201 sites in six of seven reserves; 30 of these sites were previously undocumented by WDFW. Sand lance spawning was documented at 22 sites in four of seven reserves; 19 of these sites were novel to WDFW’s dataset. Several areas, such as McNeil Island, Protection Island and Smith Island, had never been surveyed before. The dataset collected by the Aquatic Reserves PSC team is unique in its broad spatial extent and fine temporal resolution, providing an up-to-date and more expansive look at variability in spawn location and timing throughout Puget Sound

Topics: Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology
Publisher: Western CEDAR
Year: 2014
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