Seining Report - 2007
Ala Spit Lagoon --Juvenile Salmon and NearShore Fish
In 2007 WSU Beach Watchers added one new site to the beach seining project - Ala Spit County Park on northeast Whidbey Island.
At the turn of the twentieth century a small triangular jetty and sea wall were built for agricultural purposes near this small pocket estuary. Since that time the neck of the spit has been reduced significantly, with the effect that the integrity of the lagoon is threatened.
As tempting as it was to simply condemn and remove the jetty and sea wall, the Island County Planning and Community Development Department chose to take a more scientific approach. Under a proposal containing seven different research approaches, a team of Beach Watchers were enlisted to provide the trained volunteers to conduct seining operations. Skagit River System Cooperative (SRSC) was contracted by Island County to supervise the process and provide technical expertise. Island County will use the results of their work to help plan for the disposition of the jetty and sea wall, in order to protect Ala Spit.
The purpose of these surveys was to assess how fish are currently using both the protected inner waters behind the spit and the more exposed waters on the outside nearshore. In particular, the surveys were aimed at documenting the use of Ala Spit habitat by migrating juvenile salmon, especially Chinook. The seining work was timed to coincide with the out-migration of juvenile salmon from the nearby Skagit River.
Beach Watchers assembled and trained a crew of volunteers and then seined the Spit at ten locations twice each month from February to June. Eric Beamer and others from SRSC provided the technical expertise for seining protocols and fish identification. Beach Watcher volunteers contributed about 300 hours to this project.. Chris Wilson and Janielle Marcell from Island County also helped with the work.
Eric Beamer’s report for the 2007 Ala Spit seining work is available here.
This report confirms that juvenile salmon including Chinook are indeed using the habitat around Ala Spit. As with the other pocket estuaries that have been seined by Beach Watchers for the past two seasons, Ala Spit is a temporary home to the juvenile salmon migrating from their natal river in early spring. By early summer they have moved on. The report summarizes the fish populations found at Ala Spit in a series of colored charts that dramatically show these migrations.
Although the observations are limited to one season, there is evidence showing which bottom conditions and vegetation types are preferred by the salmon. This is information that should assist Island County in its planning for any restoration work at the Park.