Our monitoring programs have been in full swing throughout the fall, with salmon escapement enumeration, forage fish surveys, pinniped monitoring, invasive species monitoring, and intertidal surveys occurring. Seagrass surveys will start up again in the summer of 2019.
We completed weekly salmon escapement counts in Anderson Creek and Meyers Creek between September 19 and November 22 this year. We also enumerated two smaller tributaries; Coho Creek that drains to Anderson Creek, and Meadow Creek that drains to Meyers. All of our results are reported to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and compiled in to Escapement Bulletins. Based on these bulletins and data collected from previous years, Chum were expected to be above target for Southeast Vancouver Island and below target for mid-Vancouver Island and Jervis Inlet. Coho were expected to remain in low productivity throughout Southern BC. We noted that both species were present in higher numbers this year when compared to last year.
Forage fish are a small pelagic fish that links plankton and larger fish in the food chain. These fish are usually referred to as bait fish. We sample for 2 species, Pacific sandlance and surf smelt – these species are considered beach spawners, laying their eggs in the sediments on the beach at high tide. We sample for forage fish continuously throughout the year, and we have so far completed surveys at Baker Beach and Thormanby Island. Last January we were fortunate to have sampled during a winter spawn at Baker Beach, during which we identified the presence of Pacific sandlance. This was an extremely exciting find, as Pacific sandlance are the preferred food for Chinook salmon, which are in turn the main food source for the Salish Sea orcas (~90% of their diet). With the Salish Sea orcas considered at risk, it is important to understand their food source and ensure protection of these resources.
We are expanding our research into this area with new sampling beaches proposed for the spring. We have partnered with DFO to start collecting environmental DNA (eDNA) samples for forage fish. We hope that we can take sediment samples from the beach and determine if it is a spawning beach using eDNA. This would reduce the time and amount of sample required at each beach. We will keep you posted with our progress!
We completed a second survey for pinnipeds (carnivorous aquatic mammals such as seals and sealions) this year. We identified haul-out locations throughout the harbour from Halfmoon Bay through to Powell River, using GPS to identify 11 locations in July and 10 locations in November. We also observed a colony of Steller sea lions comprised of 75 individuals in July and 191 in November.
INVASIVE SPECIES MONITORING
New this year, we have started looking at monitoring invasive species along the coast and near high traffic locations such as government docks. We have been completing literature reviews for habitat types required for European green crab and have completed underwater photographs of some of the public docks within the harbour including Madeira Park, Irvine’s Landing, Whiskey Slough and Garden Bay. We plan to take underwater photographs twice a year to see if there are any changes in the composition of the flora and fauna, to complete biodiversity indices and to monitor for potential invasive species presence. Our first round of photographs was completed in October 2018.
Our intertidal surveys are comprised of rocky and soft sediment surveys. Rocky surveys involve a visual inspection along the rocky shoreline in a given area, wherein abundance of mobile organisms is recorded, and a snapshot of sessile invertebrates and marine plants is completed. Soft sediment sampling involves looking at organisms under the surface at different depth intervals. We survey the intertidal at four locations in total; rocky intertidal is completed at Baker Beach, Irvines Landing, and Thormanby Island, while soft sediment is completed at Baker Beach, Thormanby Island, and Malcolm Bay.
We complete intertidal surveys twice a year, in the summer and in the winter. This year we performed summer surveys for both site types and all locations between June and early September. While summer sampling occurs during daylight hours, winter sampling occurs at night to correspond with the low tides - this proves challenging, as the weather can be unpredictable and good low tides are few and far between! As a result, we have yet to perform winter surveys at all sites. Two soft sediment surveys were completed this November at Malcolm Bay and Baker Beach, and a rocky intertidal survey was also completed in November at Baker Beach. One rocky intertidal survey (Thormanby Island) was completed in February earlier this year, but we have not been able to access this site more recently due to the timing of the tides. Both rocky and soft sediment surveys will be performed on Thormanby in early 2019, and a rocky intertidal survey is scheduled at Irvines Landing for early this December.