Forage Fish : Cornerstone of Ocean Food Webs
"Forage fish are small fish that travel in large schools and are a food source or 'forage' for larger fish and marine mammals. Forage fish, including Pacific herring, Pacific sand lance and surf smelt form the cornerstone of marine food webs. They, and other forage fish species play an important role in the diets of Humpback Whales, Porpoise, Sea Lions, Seals, Salmon and marine birds.
From sand grains to whales, it's all connected. Surf smelt and Pacific sand lance lay tiny eggs (1mm) on pebble and sand beaches just below the high-tide line - an area called the intertidal zone. The number and health of these beaches play an important role in the lives of the salmon, whales and marine birds that rely on each generation of forage fish for food." - Islands Trust Fund
Our actions on and around these beaches, like shoreline development, can impact forage fish habitat, so it is important to identify and map these areas.
MVIHES has begun work in identifying and mapping forage fish spawning sites under the direction of Ramona de Graaf, Independent Researcher and Co-ordinator of the Shore Spawner's Alliance. The BC Shore Spawners Alliance is an alliance of community groups working to document and protect the intertidal spawning habitat of forage fish, specifically surf smelt (top in picture) and Pacific sand lance (bottom in picture).
We plan to assess and map the beaches in the Parksville area so that forage fish habitat is identified as a valuable resource when governments are reviewing development proposals along shorelines. We have recently documented that the beach in San Pareil adjacent to Rathtrevor Park is sand lance spawing habitat.