Forage Fish Survey

Forage Fish Survey

Forage fishes are small schooling fishes that form a critical link in the marine food web between zooplankton and larger fish and wildlife consumers. Status of forage fish populations can be an indicator of the health and productivity of nearshore systems. Forage fish occupy every marine and estuarine nearshore habitat in Washington, and much of the intertidal and shallow subtidal areas of the Puget Sound Basin are used by these species for spawning habitat.

Surf Smelt (top) / Pacific sand lance (bottom)

In 2016 Clallam MRC joined the Northwest Straits Commission's forage fish monitoring efforts. Three Clallam MRC members and the project coordinator participated in a day long training provided by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Find more information at WDFW on the survey methods and an interactive map over forage fish spawning in Puget Sound. The Quality Assurance Project Plan is available here.

For 18 months Clallam MRC conducted monthly surveys at two locations - Pitship Point adjacent to John Wayne Marina and at a public beach near Old Town east of Dungeness River - and we are currently collecting samples at Cline Spit. The monthly forage fish samples are submitted to Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife for analysis. 

In April 2017 the sampling effort was expanded to include two sites on Ediz Hook. The sites were selected by the Lower Elwha Tribe in an effort to document forage fish spawning in the newly restored area along the inside of the spit. The effort was expanded again in July to include two sites on the beach east of the Elwha River mouth. Lower Elwha tribal members have seen forage fish along this beach and with the sampling effort we can document if they are spawning.

In 2017 and 2018 Clallam MRC participated in the intensive summer sampling event conducted by WDFW. The CMRC members conducted sampling at 11 and 9 beaches, respectively, between Old Town near Sequim and Crescent Beach west of Port Angeles.

The three figures below show the results of the laboratory analysis conducted by WDFW of the samples collected by the Clallam MRC. The analysis is qualitative and is only used to confirm presence/absence of forage fish. To be considered present at least 2 eggs have to be seen in a sample. Additional results of forage fish surveys conducted along the Strait of Juan de Fuca can be seen at the WDFW website.

Forage Fish Survey