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

Victoria-born, 16-time Grammy winning musician David Foster penned a letter to the Greater Victoria School District May 7 urging them not to cut music programs. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
David Foster joins fight to save music in Greater Victoria School District

‘Music is the great equalizer’ Foster wrote in a letter to the district

‘Nindanikoobijiganag: We are Star People’ by Mississauga Nishnaabe Lucbanin artist Estrella Whetung. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Victoria beadwork exhibit speaks to evolving, enduring nature of Indigenous art

On Beaded Ground features work from West Coast artists and a Cedar Hill Middle School group

Former Victoria HarbourCat and Chicago White Sox player Andrew Vaughn. (Photo courtesy of Chicago White Sox)
Former Victoria HarbourCat hits first MLB home run, adds another two days later

Andrew Vaughn is the first HarbourCat alumni to hit a homer in the majors

A seniors housing complex proposed for Cedar Hill Road in Saanich was supported by council after a public hearing on May 12. (Rendering by Jenson Group Architects)
New 85-unit seniors housing development gets green light from Saanich council

Four-storey rental complex would be located on Cedar Hill Road

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Most Read