Forage Fish Questionnaire

The Comox Valley Project Watershed Society is working to identify forage fish spawning beaches in parts of the Northern Salish Sea (Campbell River to Fanny Bay, including Cortes, Denman, Hornby, and Quadra Islands) in a joint effort to identify and better manage important forage fish habitats. Forage fish are crucial links in the marine food web and support many species including Chinook salmon and orcas. However, the location and timing of spawning events is not well understood in western scientific literature. This survey was originally created by Young Nguyen, as part of his Co-op term with the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society.

Common examples of forage fish include Pacific sand lance, surf smelt, Pacific herring, eulachon (oolichan), and Pacific sardine. Project Watershed is undertaking an effort to identify forage fish habitat in our area of interest by sampling beaches, in order to determine if they contain forage fish eggs. We need help from local knowledge and traditional ecological experts to identify where to focus our sampling efforts. Our species of interest include Pacific sand lance (PSL) and surf smelt (SS).

Key characteristics of a surf smelt include a body length of approximately 20 - 25 cm (8 – 10 inches) and are silver in colouration. The key characteristics of Pacific sand lance include its long slender body, approximately 20 cm (8 inches) in length, they have a needle-like nose, and are gray green in colouration.

The two species are known to spawn on the top third of the intertidal zone in coarse sand and sand/pea gravel substrate. Site-wise, we have identified a total of 14 positive spawning beaches where we have detected eggs. Some of the local sites include Goose Spit, Air Force Beach, Shingle Spit, and Curtis Beach. In an effort to identify additional spawning beaches, we would love to interview you and discuss any relevant information that you might have. Below are some questions that relate to PSL and SS spawning activities. Please feel free to answer questions that you are comfortable with and provide any additional feedback. We appreciate your time and knowledge. Identification of important forage fish habitats will go a long way to helping protect our precious marine ecosystem.

If you would like to have a phone call or one on one conversation, or have any questions please contact Virginia or Project Watershed Office at 250 703 2871.

Comox Valley Project Watershed Society – Forage Fish Team
Creator: Young Nguyen - University of Victoria Co-op (Fall 2019) - Field & Research Assistant
Revisor: Virginia East - Field & Research Assistant - Comox Valley Project Watershed Society
Editors: Jennifer Sutherst & Beatrice Proudfoot

Updated Fall 2020

The Comox Valley Project Watershed Society respectfully acknowledges that we live, work, and play within the Unceded traditional territory of the K'òmoks First Nation

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1. Can you identify any Pacific Sand Lance (PSL) and/or Surf Smelt (SS) spawning beaches within our Northern Salish Sea region (Campbell River to Fanny Bay, Quadra, Cortes, Denman, Hornby)? If so, please name the location/nearest landmark. Please be as specific as possible.
2. If you responded yes to question one, please indicate the last time you detect the eggs or detected spawning activities? (please be as specific as possible)
3. What kind of substrate was on that beach? (e.g. silt, sand, pebbles, cobble, cobble pebble mix, pebbly sand mix etc.)
4. What time of the day and time of the year did you detect spawning activity or eggs?
5. How modified was the shoreline where you detected spawning activities or eggs? For example, does the backshore have a seawall/rip rap, used as an aquaculture site or is it natural and unmodified?
6. Do you know if the area is currently or was traditionally used by First Nations?
7. Could you provide any additional descriptions of the beach type? (cove, inlet, estuary, flat, long/narrow beach, very exposed or protected by waves, slope, tree shading, etc.)
8. Have you noticed any forage fish predators (e.g., sea birds, larger fish) in the region that you think might relate to PSL or SS?
9. Do you know of any other subject matter experts that I could interview in the area?
10. Do you have any additional site descriptions or comments and tips that could support our effort to identify forage fish spawning habitats?
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