Ian Bruce, executive coordinator of the Peninsula Streams Society, uses a portable whirlpool to pan for surf smelt and Pacific sand lance eggs. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Ian Bruce, executive coordinator of the Peninsula Streams Society, uses a portable whirlpool to pan for surf smelt and Pacific sand lance eggs. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

North Saanich’s Tryon beach is a biological gold mine

Beach serves as a productive breeding ground for fish crucial for birds and large animals

It is a sunny Monday morning in early April and Ian Bruce, executive coordinator with the Peninsula Streams Society, is panning for fish eggs with North Saanich’s Tryon Beach just behind him.

A small plastic whirlpool stirs up the dark mix of sand and gravel picked up from the beach into a vortex and an opening in the middle of the pool allows the suspended surf smelt and Pacific sand lance eggs to fall into a pan below the pool. A small microscope then allows Bruce to count the eggs in his catch.

Without stressing the analogy too much, Tryon Beach is a rich vein of biological gold in ranking as perhaps the most productive nursery for surf smelt and Pacific sand lance eggs anywhere on Vancouver Island. “This beach is the hottest beach around,” said Bruce, his enthusiasm bubbling over. “It’s fabulous.”

Based on a sample taken in early March, anywhere between 10 million and 100 million fish eggs lie across the beach, encased in the moist sand-gravel mix, nearly invisible to the human eye, but crucial to animals near and far.

“They are a very important food fish for all the birds that came into the bird sanctuary,” said Bruce. They also become food for large fish like salmon and cod, which in turn become food for larger animals.

“So the eggs on the beach are one step away from a killer whale’s stomach,” he said. “It’s the foundation of the food web, where they convert plankton into fish flesh, which then moves up the chain.”

RELATED: Environmental coalition calls on Saanich Peninsula communities to develop coordinating vision

That chain, however, can only remain intact if the ocean (along with its kinetic energy) can continue to erode the backshore.

“As soon as you put that (beach) armouring up, it stops the ability of the ocean to nourish the beach by eroding the backshore,” he said.

This is what has happened elsewhere, said Bruce, pointing to the effects of seawalls in Roberts Bay. They deflect the energy of the ocean back on itself, which in turn flattens the beach, thereby robbing the fish of their breeding ground.

“These fish need a place to do their business and we have taken it away,” said Bruce. “I don’t want that happen here (at Tryon Beach).”

Accordingly, he wants to work with the property owner or the municipality to make sure the ocean can continue to claw away at the backshore in a way that maintains the beach as a productive breeding ground.

Bruce would also like to see the provincial government pass legislation like the one governing shorelines in Washington State. Bruce envisions legislation similar to the riparian area legislation governing development around streams, lakes, and wetlands, adding that it could bring some clarity to the jurisdictional jumble around beaches. The backshore is municipal responsibility, the beach provincial jurisdiction and the ocean and its animals subject to federal authorities.

Bruce’s gold, ahem, egg panning in early April was part of a twice-a-year survey of the beach that not only sampled the egg count on the beach but also measured its topography. He will be back in the winter to see if the tide has changed for or against the fish.


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Saanich Peninsula

 

This image, taken with a help of microscope, shows surf smelt eggs. North Saanich’s Tryon Beach is perhaps the most productive breeding ground for surf smelt as well as Pacific sand lance. (Ian Bruce/Submitted)

This image, taken with a help of microscope, shows surf smelt eggs. North Saanich’s Tryon Beach is perhaps the most productive breeding ground for surf smelt as well as Pacific sand lance. (Ian Bruce/Submitted)

Just Posted

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island COVID-19 local case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

Pathfinders and Wild Wise Sooke built slim, black bat houses to be hung around Sooke. (Submitted/Wild Wise Sooke)
Sooke teens build bat condos

Wild Wise Sooke says bats will sleep, hibernate and raise their young in the boxes

Saanich police used a drone to investigate a fatal crash in the 5200-block of West Saanich Road on Feb. 4, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Police determine speed, impairment not factors in fatal West Saanich Road crash

Driver who died veered across center line into oncoming traffic for unknown reason, police say

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 11

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Canada’s demo Hornet soars over the Strait of Georgia near Comox. The F-18 demo team is returning to the Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Sgt. Robert Bottrill/DND
F-18 flight demo team returning to Vancouver Island for spring training

The team will be in the Comox Valley area from May 16 to 24

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Bow-legged bear returns to Ladysmith, has an appointment with the vet

Brown Drive Park closed as conservation officers search for her after she returned from relocation

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

Pixabay
Island Health: two doctors, new clinic space to avert Port McNeill health crisis

Island Health has leased space to use as an immediate clinic location to avert health crisis

Police investigate a fatal 2011 shooting in a strip mall across from Central City Shopping Centre, which was deemed a gang hit. The Mayor’s Gang Task Force zeroed in on ways to reduce gang involvement and activity. (File photo)
COVID-19 could be a cause in public nature of B.C. gang violence: expert

Martin Bouchard says the pandemic has changed people’s routines and they aren’t getting out of their homes often, which could play a role in the brazen nature of shootings

Most Read