Tribes, state nourish Fidalgo Bay beaches for forage fish

Tribes and state agencies are fighting shoreline erosion and restoring forage fish habitat in Fidalgo Bay.

The beaches on the west side of March Point near the Tesoro and Shell oil refineries once were prime spawning and rearing habitat for forage fish such as surf smelt, sand lance and Pacific herring. Forage fish prefer to spawn in coarse sand and gravel, but industrial activity, shoreline armoring and polluted runoff have eroded the beaches and degraded the habitat.

The Skagit River System Cooperative, the natural resources arm of the Swinomish and Sauk-Suiattle tribes, is working with the state Department of Natural Resources and the two refineries to restore the beaches.

In October, crews spread pea gravel and beach sand along the eroding shorelines. These nourishment materials replace the naturally occurring sediment that has been lost over the years. Restoring this habitat benefits the species that feed on forage fish, including juvenile salmon, clams and shorebirds.

The project is funded in part through Texaco-Anacortes Restoration Fund grants received through the Oil Pollution Act’s Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration regulations for oil spills that occurred in Fidalgo Bay in 1990. Additional funding came from the Northwest Straits Commission.

For more information, contact:
Steve Hinton, Skagit River System Cooperative, 360-466-7243 or [email protected]; Kari Neumeyer, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, 360-424-8226 or [email protected].