Festival Season: Excellent Eelgrass!

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Greetings from the field! July brings a host of summer festivals our way in Skagit County. This year, we’re participating in the Concrete Youth Activity Day, Kids R Best Fest, Taylor Shellfishtival, and much more. These festivals are a great opportunity to engage with youth we may not see in the classroom as well as doing some valuable outreach.

With “forage fish” becoming a buzz word around the communities at the shores of the Salish Sea, we wanted to incorporate some knowledge of forage fish into our outreach and how they benefit salmon. Juvenile salmon rearing habitat is also a hot topic, as we’re learning that lack of habitat is a limiting factor in salmon recovery. Of course we also wanted to include salmon in our fishy craft.

With all these elements combined, we created an eelgrass fishmobile!

 

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Close-up of the mobile

Five Fast Facts about Eelgrass 

1. Eelgrass is not Seaweed! 

Eelgrass is different from a seaweed. When we see seaweed, what we are seeing is a marine algae. Eelgrass is a plant which spreads by rhizomes and roots. Because it is a plant, eelgrass also blooms and creates seeds.

2. Eelgrass is not Evergreen.

Eelgrass beds, like underwater meadows, grow and change over time. Eelgrass will die off in the fall and winter to regrow anew in the spring.

3. Blades of eelgrass can grow to be 3 ft tall! 

Eelgrass blades can be extremely long, creating a forest similar to a kelp forest, which is an important source of shelter for many types of marine organisms, of which salmon are only one species.

4. Eelgrass is Useful.  

Humans have found many uses for eelgrass in the past. The Seri people of Mexico eat and use eelgrass in a variety of ways. It has been used as a padding and packing material, and some Danish people have used eelgrass to thatch their roofs. Eelgrass roofs are known for being heavy but durable.

5. Eelgrass is Food for Birds. 

Some species of birds, such as brant geese and wigeons, depend on eelgrass as an important food source.

Our eelgrass mobiles have been a lot of fun to create and even more fun to have blowing in the warm summer breeze. We incorporated green eelgrass streamers and glued juvenile salmon in strategic hiding places. Note the Pacific Herring laying her eggs on the eelgrass – herring is an important forage fish, but unlike Surf Smelt and Sand Lance, herring need eelgrass to spawn.

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A finished mobile at Kids R Best Fest

We’ve been having a great time making mobiles with youth both up and downriver. Look for us next at the Burlington Back to School Fair on August 22.  After that, we’ll be at Fidalgo Bay Day on August 29.

If you’re interested in volunteering or joining us at any of these events, send a message to sfeg@skagitfisheries.org.

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