Banner Photo: Herring eggs found in the west Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound coastal area. (Credit: John Buchanan)

2020 Rating

2020 Rationale

There is a lack of monitoring and data on forage fish in Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound. Consequently, despite information from citizen scientists, gaps exist; thus, an analysis of trends and population status is not possible.

2017 Rating

2017 Rationale

Despite recent efforts to observe and report observations of herring, anchovy, and even species like dolphins that prey on these fish, we lack robust data that would allow us to assess the status of forage fish.

The following is an excerpt from the full updated article. Download the full 2020 article for all content and references.

Forage Fish: the importance of citizen science 

Author: Amber Dearden, Research Assistant, Ocean Watch, Ocean Wise Research Institute
Reviewers: Jennifer Boldt, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)

Jaclyn Cleary, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)

Excerpt from 2020 article

Forage fish, such as herring (Clupea pallasii) and eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus), are important species in Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound’s ecosystem, providing food for many animals higher up the food chain. In recent years there has been an increased focus on improving our knowledge on the state of forage fish populations and on improving management practices for these species. Citizen science groups, non-profit organizations, and government bodies have all realized the key role that forage fish play in the ecosystem. As such, these organizations have allocated time and funds to increase research and restoration of these species and their habitats.

Read the full article to see what else is happening.

Background: Herring spawn on hemlock boughs. (Credit: John Buchanan)

What’s been done since 2017?

The table below reports on progress made on recommended actions from the previous 2017 article, where identified. Many of these require ongoing action.

2017 Action Action Taken
Individual and Organization Actions
Support research, monitoring and protection of forage fish habitats and water quality.
  • BC Shore Spawners Alliance held a workshop in June 2018 showing volunteers how to identify and map forage fish spawning sites (run by Ramona de Graaf).
  • Islands Trust Conservancy undertook Forage Fish Habitat Assessments for Bowen, Gambier and Keats Islands in 2014, and have continued with other Gulf Islands (most recently in 2019 on North Pender, James and Sidney Islands).
  • Sea to Sky Cultural Journeys program teaching school kids about harvesting herring roe. John Buchanan has continued to keep records of herring spawn activities throughout the west coast of the Sound.
Government Action and Policy
Prioritize and fund research, monitoring and protection of forage fish habitats. The Coastal Restoration Fund, an Oceans Protection Plan initiative, was announced in May 2017. In May 2018, the fund awarded two grants to groups operating in Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound.

  • $1.3 million over five years, awarded to the Sea Change Marine Conservation Society (in partnership with the Canadian Coast Guard and DFO). The grant was awarded to assist in the restoration of eelgrass and estuarine habitat for Pacific salmon and forage fish in four areas, one being Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound (alongside the Gulf Islands, Burrard Inlet and Sechelt).1
  • $1.5 million over five years, awarded to the Squamish River Watershed Society (in partnership with Canadian Coast Guard & DFO). The project aims to restore coastal habitats by “re-establishing freshwater connection to the estuary” supporting salmon recovery and improving water quality and habitat for other fish and wildlife. 2 See Salmon article, OWHS 2020 for more info.
  • A national program (Strategic Program for Ecosystem-based Research and Advice) has been developed by DFO in order to help identify ecosystem-based approaches to management strategies. This approach will assist in considering impacts of climate change and will hopefully bring a better understanding of the collective role that forage fish have in the ecosystem, leading to more appropriate management decisions/strategies.

Bill C-68, an amendment to the Fisheries Act, came into effect August 28, 2019. The provision allows for extra protections and considerations to be made with respect to fish stocks, fish habitat and conservation of marine biodiversity, among other things.3 Green Shores for Coastal Development – Credits and ratings voluntary program for minimizing environmental impact of waterfront development. This program was awarded funding in Jan/Feb 2019 from Natural Resources Canada as part of the Federal Climate Change Adaptation Program.4 The shoreline is key spawning habitat for many forage fish, and soft-shore development options can help reduce egg mortality.5

1Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). Government of Canada makes significant Coastal Restoration Fund investments in British Columbia through the Oceans Protection Plan. Online.  (2018).

2Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). Government of Canada makes a significant Coastal Restoration Fund investment in the Squamish River Estuary through the Oceans Protection Plan. (2018).

3Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). Fish and fish habitat protection policy statement. Online  (2019).

4Green Shores. Green shores funding announcement. (2019).

5De Graaf, R. Valdes Island, British Columbia Surf smelt and Pacific sand lance Spawning Habitat Suitability Assessments. (2017).

What can you do?

A detailed overview of recommended actions relating to climate change is included in The path to zero carbon municipalities. In some cases, no progress was identified on previous recommended actions; these remain listed below. Additional actions marked as NEW also follow.

action-individual Individual and Organization Actions:

    • NEW Be aware of beaches near you that are used as spawning beaches by forage fish. Take care not to disturb these areas.

action-governmentGovernment Action and Policy:

    • Monitor and enforce the legislation (B.C. Land Act) that prohibits changes below the high tide line without lease or license of occupation.
    • NEW Increase funding in support of monitoring forage fish numbers and distribution in Átl’ḵa7tsem/ Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound.
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