Coastal Forage Fish Network
Collect, Collaborate, Conserve
The Coastal Forage Fish Network (CFFN) is a network of environmental NGOs, Community groups, and First Nations working across our coast to document forage fish presence and better understand their populations and habitat in the region.
Photo by Jeff K. Reynolds
The CFFN’s mission is to facilitate collaboration between individual groups working on forage fish to determine where best to focus efforts, resources, and research to address data gaps in order to better inform management and regulatory decisions.
The network’s vision is thriving stable forage fish populations that can sustain the predators that rely upon them and contribute to a healthy marine food web within the coastal waters of BC.
Comox Valley Project Watershed
Peninsula Streams Society
Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute
Pender Harbor Ocean Discovery Station
Friends of Forage Fish
Friends of Semiahmoo Bay Society
Redd Fish Restoration Society
Surf Smelt (top) and Pacific Sand Lance (bottom). Photo by K. Perry.
Biologist Ramona de Graaf led early efforts to train volunteers and community scientists throughout the Canadian Salish Sea to monitor their local beaches for beach spawning as well as to assess the integrity of the beach habitat. Since then a flourish of grass roots organizations, individuals, and non-profits have been visiting the beaches in their own backyards to look for beach spawning forage fish eggs like those of Pacific sand lance and surf smelt. More recently WWF-Canada and the Pacific Salmon Foundation provided support for groups doing this work and place for to store all this data so it can become publicly available. In 2017 the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institiute (MABRRI), based out of Vancouver Island University (VIU), refined the original methodologies used for assessing forage fish intertidal beach spawning and developed a program to train and support citizen scientists. In 2022 the informal network of groups across the Salish Sea came together to formally create the BC Forage Fish Monitoring Network, and in 2023 there was a vote to rename to the Coastal Forage Fish Network so as to capture all the work the Network members were conducting.
Importance of Forage Fish
Forage fish, often referred to as prey fish or bait fish are small species, often fish, but not always, that tend to school together and are a main food source for larger predators. They form a critical link in the ocean food web providing energy transfer through the trophic levels by eating plankton, and then becoming food themselves for a multitude of other predators.
Some key forage species include Pacific herring, surf smelt, Pacific anchovy, eulachon (also spelled oolichan or ooligan), Pacific sand lance, and Pacific capelin. Krill and squid can be considered forage species, and so can juvenile stages of larger fish like salmon and walleye pollock. These species or life stages are united by their position in the food web providing energy to middle and top predators.
Forage Fish Links
Funders & Partners
This work is funded by the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund and with support from the Pacific Salmon Foundation and the Comox Valley Regional District. Local partners in this initiative include K’ómoks First Nation and North Island College.
Forage Fish News
Project Watershed is very excited to announce the award of $1.4 million dollars of funding from the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund to support our forage fish research, monitoring and restoration! This funding, provided over 3 years (2023-2026), will support our intertidal and pelagic forage fish research as well as that of the Coastal Forage Fish Network, which brings together stewardship groups and First Nations partners across coastal British Columbia.
As you may know, Project Watershed has been researching forage fish and their habitats for many years now. To date our work has focused on beach spawning forage fish, specifically Pacific sand lance and surf smelt.
December 8th was the first annual Pacific Sand Lance Day!
These skinny forage fish are understudied and important to our coastal ecosystem. Sand lance have over 100 known predators, and are particularly important to nesting sea birds. This eclectic fish buries into sandy sea beds, hibernates all winter, and spawns on beaches!
Pacific sandlance eggs ~ Aaron SchmidtBeach survery ~ Tom GrimmerSand sample under microscope ~ Aaron Schmidt Our winter Pacific sand lance season was kicked off with eggs being found on Cortes Island on November 6! Later in the month eggs were found at Shingle Spit...