Following complete removal of the last dam from the Elwha River it appears that the nearshore food webs have begun to repair themselves. During a recent lower river and estuary seining, the Coastal Watershed Institute (CWI) documented, for the first time, hundreds of gravid and spent eulachon Thaleichthys pacificus- a federally listed river spawning smelt (watch a video of the field observation here).
While spawning is low in the Elwha drift cell, it’s common to seasonally see extremely large schools of adult and juvenile sand lance (Ammodytes hexapterus), surf smelt, and herring (Clupea harengus pallasi) migrating along our shorelines and feeding in the kelp and eelgrass beds of the Elwha and Dungeness nearshore (see sand lance and herring in our nearshore here: http://vimeo.com/106125199 and video of a recent juvenile herring storm in the Elwha nearshore here: http://vimeo.com/104661826) . It is so important to protect these nearshore habitats critical for these important forage fish species.
In July 2014, Coastal Watershed Institute and a group of young National Geographic Explorers documented that surf smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus pretiosus) expanded their spawning range in the Elwha nearshore and spawned on new beaches that were created as a result of dam removal. You can read about our July sampling here. We continue to sample for new spawning areas for surf smelt and sand lance and other forage fish as they arrive. Stay tuned.