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General News · 8th December 2020
FOCI - Sabina Leader Mense
This time last year, FOCI’s Team Sweevy documented spawning Pacific sand lance, for the first time, on Cortes Island beaches.

They’re back.... join us in celebrating their return!

This valuable forage fish species, Ammodytes hexapterus, is a critical component of the marine ecosystem, feeding local fish, seabird and marine mammal species. They are often called needlefish by the local salmon fishermen.

Female Pacific sand lance time their egg laying, on Cortes Island beaches, for the highest tides on the biggest moons in early November.
The females literally “swim” through the sand to deposit their eggs, which are then fertilized by large schools of males releasing sperm into the waters above. The fertilized eggs are sticky and attach to grains of sand, which act like ballast to hold them IN the sand. The photo above shows Pacific sand lance eggs at 120X magnification under a stereoscope.
Hatching occurs ~4 weeks after egg laying, so this first week of December has Pacific sand lance popping out of their eggs like popcorn!


You will see Team Sweevy members on the beaches, scooping up small samples of sand and then sieving and vortexing them down in size. A few teaspoons of sand give us information on occurrence, abundance and egg development. We send our data to our partner, Project Watershed in Courtenay, who is linked in to the Vancouver Island forage fish network conducting research from Victoria north to Sayward.

The oldtimers on Cortes referred to forage fish as ... “sweevies”, hence the name of our field team. If you have historical information on the location of forage fish spawning or recent observations, FOCI would like to hear from you - 250 935 0087; thanks!

Manson’s Spit and Smelt Bay are our “jackpot” beaches this year.
So remember... for those of you walking these beaches, take the time to bend down and send some LOVE to the wee ones underfoot!!!