Seining nets myriad sea life species

Tailfins on cutthroat and pincers on crablegs, sand lance and eel-fish and shrimp by the half-kegs ... links in a food chain part-buried in sand — these are things that you find when you seine.

Manchester’s first-ever seining experiment took place Saturday, when buckets of off-shore sealife were pulled in by more than a dozen eager helpers.

The purpose of the seining was to better assess the variety of organisms that live and feed just beyond Manchester’s tide line.

This has become of increasing interest lately as Manchester battles to keep freewheeling teenagers from driving on the beach and attempts to put some controls on the community’s worsening stormwater problem.

“I think this was more of an educational outreach for the county,” said Joe Kowalski, member of the Save Duncan Creek Committee.

The committee, part-sponsor of the event, is interested in the relationship between the creek and the area of Manchester’s beach through which the creek drains. The biggest issue surrounding the creek is excess stormwater, which erodes and overflows the creek banks, making it difficult to attract spawning fish species back to it. It was hoped in the course of the seining, some evidence of local fish populations would be found — a discovery which could jumpstart the fish recovery effort.

“We have an interest in the creek because it goes right by our house,” Kowalski said. “We want the water to be clean and healthy.”

As it turned out, community members found the fish they were looking for, and then some.

Kowalski attended Saturday’s event and said some of the specimens caught in the net frankly surprised him — everything from a good-sized cutthroat trout to salmon food fish such as sand lance and so on down the food chain. One of the biologists working at the site even spotted shrimp — an unusual sighting for the area.

“We didn’t know there were shrimp out there,” Kowalski said. “I think this is going to establish a baseline of what’s out there.”

Seining consists of using small boats and waders in hip boots to place a large net in a half-circle configuration just beyond the tide line. The net is then hauled in using ropes — and a lot of manpower. Nearly everything in the water between the net and shore gets scooped up in the process, allowing participants the chance to see a good cross-section of the off-shore community.

“It was a good low tide,” said Janice Shaw, spokeswoman for the Duncan Creek committee.

However, she said, it could have been better. Community participants — including Shaw — obviously hadn’t realized exactly how heavy a waterlogged net filled with specimens can be. Shaw said they only got the chance to haul in a few nets worth before enthusiasm and strength waned.

“I’m sure (the researchers) didn’t get as many seinings as they would have liked, in as many different places,” she said. “You can’t pull in those seines without a crowd of people to help.”

The organisms were released after they were inspected and catalogued by biologists representing the state and county Departments of Natural Resources and the Suquamish tribe. Shaw said she hopes this helps put a solid face on the damage that can be done by beach drivers and excess stormwater.

“That’s what this has been about — getting some information so people know that (those things) are not good to do,” she said.

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