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It’s the season to leave the seaweed be

It’s the season to leave the seaweed be

The Sunshine Coast Friends of Forage Fish volunteer group would like to remind the public – especially all those gardeners – that herring spawn season is upon us, and herring are one of the forage fish species.

What are forage fish, you ask?  Forage fish are abundant, schooling fishes, and include herring, anchovies, smelt, sand lance, and more. They are an essential component of marine ecosystems, providing critical food sources for many birds and for larger fish such as salmon and ling cod, which in turn are eaten by marine mammals such as sea lions and orca whales.

Herring are a popular food fish for wildlife and humans alike.  Herring utilize the seaweeds and eelgrasses offshore to spawn.  They attach their eggs to these plants and from time to time during storms and surging tides the plants laden with herring eggs are washed onto shore.

This material sometimes forms great piles in the high tide zone of the beach. This is favoured by people for mulch for their gardens.

As a practice, mulching is great, but when one chooses seaweed as mulch, a series of thoughtful decisions should be made beforehand.

First, what is the time of year?  February, March, and early April are herring spawning months here on the coast, and herring will often choose seaweeds as the “anchor” for their eggs.  Even when the egg-laden seaweed gets broken off and washed up on the beach, those eggs can quite happily survive until the next high tide. By taking seaweeds during the spawning season, there is the potential to destroy thousands of herring eggs.  NONE should be collected at this time.

If you must collect seaweed as mulch for your garden, take only small amounts, and over a large area to minimize the impact on this special area of our world, and NOT during the months of February, March, and April.

The Sunshine Coast Friends of Forage Fish is a local volunteer group that has been diligently sampling Sunshine Coast beaches for the presence of forage fish eggs.  We have had findings of sand lance and surf smelt eggs at several of our local beaches.

For more information or to volunteer, call Dianne Sanford, volunteer coordinator, Sunshine Coast Friends of Forage Fish, 604-885-6283, or email  For more information about our group, visit


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