Pacific sand lance habitat management framework
Forage fish, including Pacific sand lance, play a critical role in marine food webs in the Salish Sea. They feed on plankton and transfer this energy to predators like Chinook salmon. In turn, Chinook are an important prey item for the federally listed Southern resident killer whale, playing an important role in their survival. Any variations in forage fish productivity, and distribution resulting from human impacts (e.g., shipping, expanding ports) can contribute to widespread and unanticipated ecological impacts (e.g., recent losses of iconic predators like salmon, and whales). Protection of forage fish and their habitats through improving sustainable coastal ecosystem management practices will play a key role in ensuring the health of forage fish populations, their dependent predators and the ecosystem as a whole. The proposed project will increase our understanding of how to reduce human impacts on coastal nearshore habitats and thus provide resources/information to habitat managers to do so. Data gathered as a result of this project will support the development of evidence-based management tools, which will help to improve sustainable coastal ecosystem management practices in the Strait of Georgia and surrounding areas.