Forage Fish Populations

North Island College is working with the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society, the K’ómoks First Nation, and other partners, to apply and test tools for identifying, mapping and quantifying important forage fish populations and their habitats. This work will contribute to the conservation of important food sources for Pacific salmon, including Chinook and Coho.

Project Dates: April 2019 – March 2022
Funding Amount: $46,892
Students Hired: 8

Students collect samples at Goose Spit as part of the fish foraging project.

Project Summary

North Island College is participating in a project with the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society (Project Watershed), the K’ómoks First Nation (KFN), and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

This project is researching populations and preferred habitats of forage fish species populations that salmon depend upon. Pacific sand lance has been previously identified as important components of out-migrating and returning chinook salmon diets however, the distribution/extent of the spawning, rearing, burying and foraging habitats of forage fish is virtually undocumented for most species, including Pacific sand lance (Ammodytes personatus), northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax), and surf smelt (Engraulis mordax), among others. The project is addressing this knowledge gap by identifying, mapping and quantifying important forage fish populations and their habitats in the northern Salish Sea.

To identify forage fish habitat the project is validating three forge fish habitat models 1) a Pacific a Pacific sand lance subtidal burying habitat model that has been recently developed by the Ecosystem Sciences Division (DFO) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC); 2) an intertidal spawning model for sand lance and surf smelt and; 3) a foraging habitat model for pelagic feeding forage fish. Results will include maps of benthic spawning, burrowing and pelagic foraging habitats of key forage fish species in the intertidal to shallow subtidal (-30m) zones.

Information will be used to validate the aforementioned research models and use a variety of techniques (e.g., grain size analyses, environmental DNA, hydroacoustic tools) to determine habitat use and distribution of forage fish species and their key habitats. One of the key objectives of this project work is to understand and map key forage fish “hot spots” utilizing an innovative environmental DNA

(eDNA) analysis of field samples to determine presence of forage fish species.

Research Team

Georgie Harrison
Georgie Harrison, Mathematics-Science Faculty
Georgie Harrison has been teaching biology courses at North Island College since 2006. Prior to joining NIC, Georgie held teaching appointments at Vancouver Island University and the University of British Columbia. Georgie completed her M.Sc. at the University of Northern British Columbia where she studied the ecology of mountain goats in north-west Alberta. Georgie’s academic training and practical experience is in wildlife ecology and the ecosystems that support wildlife populations. In addition to her research work in BC, she also has worked in Europe and remote areas of Argentina, Botswana, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Laos.
Lucas Evans
Lucas Evans, NIC Senior Lab Technician
Livia Hosegrove, NIC biology student
Jaewon Kim, NIC biology student
William Lu, NIC biology student
Angela Mitchell, NIC biology student
Matthew Orlowski, NIC biology student
Beatrice Proudfoot, CVPW Program Coordinator and Biological Assistant
Isabella Schmidt, Vanier High School student
Jennifer Sutherst, CVPW Project Manager & Estuary Coordinator
Christian Snyder, NIC biology student
Jasmin Urdahl, NIC biology student

Partners

News Stories and Coverage

Comox Valley Record: Funds dedicated to restore salmon populations

NIC News: NIC biology students helping with Project Watershed research

My Campbell River Now: NIC biology students working with Comox Valley Project Watershed for hands-on experience 

Education News Canada: NIC biology students helping with Project Watershed research