Beach seining clears waters

 - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

As the Foulweather Bluff cliffs towered impressively mid-morning Wednesday, a small crew of nine deftly maneuvered a dark green net ashore through cresting waves below, hopeful it was full of fish and other creatures from the nearshore habitat. The capture proved a success, netting perch, sole and the prize of the bunch, two Pacific Cod, which were nearly wiped out of the Agate Pass area.

The netting is commonly known as beach seining, and the Suquamish Tribe has partnered with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct a pilot study to create a baseline of the nearshore habitat so future changes in North Kitsap waters can be closely monitored. The seining, which has been undertaken with the help of many volunteers, is only a small snapshot of what is happening beneath the surface of Puget Sound.

“There is not a formal partnership, this is through the Suquamish Tribe,” said WSDFW watershed steward Doris Small, shouting over the engines on the Suquamish Tribe’s 28-foot Packman as it chopped through waves en route to Foulweather Bluff. Much of what the beach seiners were seeking Wednesday were juvenile salmonoids. “The nearshore community is bigger than just salmon though. This is where it all comes together, all the fish in the Puget Sound come together here.”

Salmon are scarce this time of year, most of them are in the Pacific feeding, growing and storing energy for the trip home. During the first three stops Wednesday, the crew found only one salmon, but a number of other marine organisms were catalogued, their length and species recorded.

Because the program is unfunded, it relies on scientists and interested residents to make up the crew. The volunteers, different each time the boat goes out, congregate twice a month, starting at Foulweather Bluff and working their way south to Kingston, making about seven stops total, said Suquamish Tribal Fisheries Biologist Paul Dorn. The program also reaches to Bainbridge Island, though seining there takes place on a different day.

“My boss told me about this,” said WSDFW fish technician Kristina Wilkening. “We get e-mails periodically that ask us when there are trips like this. I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll go.’ It’s always nice to try something new.”

“It’s interesting because each time we go out, we have a large contingent of specialties,” Dorn said. “We have the Brennan Shellfish Inter-laboratory Program. Fish and Wildlife usually have two or three people out. Dick (D’Archangel) is a retired engineer. We’re lucky to have him, he takes meticulous notes.”

The crew stopped at three points between Foulweather Bluff and Point No Point, the last two looked like the backyards of Hansville residents. At the third stop, two interested locals watched the netting and cataloguing process, asking questions and took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about their underwater neighbors.

“It is and it isn’t that I do a lot of shoreline work,” said geologist Wendy Gerstel. She has worked with Small in the past, and felt the beach seining would be a good opportunity to learn more about a different medium than the one she works in. “I want to understand the areas that I’m working in fully, and understand what it means when property owners want to install bulkheads. I know how to stabilize the slope... but I want to understand what’s going on at the beach and water as well.”

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