Jericho Beach Gold Rush – Pursuit of the elusive forage fish

Jericho Beach Gold Rush – Pursuit of the elusive forage fish

School:

UBC

Department:

Science

Course:

ENVR 400

Instructors:

  • Tara Ivanochko

City of Vancouver:

  • Michael Lipsen

Student Team:

  • Cassidy Chow
  • Mikalyn Trinca Colonel
  • David Park
  • Nuno U

Strategy:

  • Climate Emergency Plan

City goal area:

  • Access to nature

Term:

Spring 2020

Summary

In 2013, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, in collaboration with the City of Vancouver completed the Jericho Beach Restoration initiative, aimed to restore intertidal spawning habitat for forage fish species also commonly known as bait fish. In order to assess the project’s efficacy in meeting this objective, we designed a scientific study to compare the viability of Jericho Beach’s restored site and one other unrestored beach site as potential spawning grounds. Two particular forage fish species of focus were Pacific sand lance and surf smelt which both spawn by burrowing into the sand at high tide and burying their eggs.

Our first procedure was to analyze sand samples from each site for potential fish eggs. We went to the field during the peak spawning season of January to February 2020 on a weekly basis, during low tide periods, and collected samples from each site. To process the sand samples for eggs we conducted various methods such as sieving, vortexing, and laboratory analysis. Our second procedure was to compare qualitative and quantitative characteristics of each site at Jericho Beach. We looked for vegetation coverage, shoreline structure, recreational activity, and potential disturbances. We measured salinity, slope, and analysis of sediment grain size. The purpose of this was to see if there were any distinct differences between the two sites that would provide potential explanations for our fish egg findings.

Our project results consist of no identified presence of fish eggs at either site and relatively similar site characteristics. Furthermore, our sand grain size analysis found that the majority of the sand substrate at both sites was in the size range of preference for both sand lance and smelt spawning. Thus, the main conclusion from our study is that the Jericho Restoration initiative was  successful in removing the previous rotting wharf structure, in adding diverse plants to the shoreline, and in establishing an urban ecological area to connect people to nature. However, our study does not provide evidence that forage fish spawning is present at this site. This may be due to potential sources of error. We recommend further research into surveying a wider range of locations within the Burrard Inlet and English Bay. We also recommend reduced disturbance, planting and maintenance of the riparian area, and the further development of a post-construction management procedure for ecological restoration projects.