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

The entrance to one of the tiny homes in Victoria’s Tiny Home Village. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)
Victoria Tiny Home Village resident evicted for lighting small fire

No damage or injuries, but zero-tolerance rule stands

The Victoria Police Department is seeking information on an assault that occurred in downtown Victoria on May 10. (Black Press Media file photo)
Police investigating downtown Victoria assault on youth

Witness also attacked after trying to intervene

Howard English Hatchery volunteer Joscilyn Jupp poured one of many buckets of salmon fry into Douglas Creek on May 11, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
35,000 salmon fry released in Saanich park during closed event

Chum from Goldstream Hatchery trucked in to restore Douglas Creek salmon spawning

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

A game camera near the Klahoose reservation on Cortes Island caught this glimpse of a truck leaving the woodlot at around 2:30 on Sunday morning. Photo supplied by Klahoose First Nation
Indigenous cutblock vandalised on Cortes Island, anti-logging element suspected

Ribbons pulled down, gravel poured into gas tank at Klahoose First Nation site

Announced Tuesday, May 18 by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, the province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory (AP/Steven Senne)
Masks now required at all times inside B.C. gyms, including during workouts

Those who disobey could be subject to a $230 fine

Reinhard “Bud” Loewen of Abbotsford has now been charged with 21 counts of sexual assault related to his massage business. (Facebook photo)
Former Abbotsford masseur now faces 21 counts of sexual assault

Bud Loewen of Bud’s Massage Therapy initally faced three charges

Over the years, police have worked with sketch artists to draw what the boys could have looked like at the times of their deaths. (Vancouver Police Department)
DNA breakthrough expected in cold case involving murdered Vancouver boys, 7 and 8

Forensic analysts are working to identify relatives of the children, whose bodies were found in Stanley Park in 1953

Livestock competitions have been part of the Pacific National Exhibiton for more than a century. (Maple Ridge News files)
B.C. provides $50 million to keep major tourist attractions going

Tour bus companies also eligible for latest COVID-19 aid

Derek Descoteau with his trusty dog Harvey. (Photo submitted)
Friends provide continuing comfort for family in wake of unresolved senseless B.C. murder

Case remains before the courts five years after Derek Descoteau’s abrupt stabbing death in Chemainus

The Nanaimo Timbermen and Victoria Shamrocks compete in Western Lacrosse Association action in Nanaimo during the 2019 season. (News Bulletin file photo)
WLA cancels another senior A lacrosse season due to COVID-19

Western Lacrosse Association, Major Series Lacrosse announce cancellation of Mann Cup

The top photo is of a real carbine rifle, while the bottom photo is the airsoft rifle seized from a Kelowna man on May 15. (Contributed)
RCMP issue warning: ‘Imitation firearms need to be dealt with responsibly’

A man brandishing his airsoft rifle in public had his weapon seized by Mounties on Saturday

Most Read