SUMMERFORD, N.L. – They may have lost a few along the way, but in just a few short days, the salmon hatched and raised in a New World Island Academy classroom will be released into the wild.
“It was a learning experience for me and for the kids,” teacher Gail Pardy told the Pilot Thursday, June 7, describing how she would come in on weekends sometimes to check on the fish. “It’s been a lot of work, but the kids have learned so much.”
Formerly the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s (ASF) province-wide Fish Friends program, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has picked up where the ASF could no longer travel to many communities. The federal government provides all the equipment for the tank and the eggs are donated by the Suncor Energy Fluvarium in St. John’s.
DFO Twillingate detachment supervisor Dwayne Holwell said there are plans to roll it out to other schools next year.
“Our goal was to help the kids understand the importance of the salmon stock, and how fragile salmon actually are,” he said.
This lesson may well have been driven home by how many fish have survived to make it this far in the project. Pardy said they had about 110 eggs when they started in February and are now down to between 50 and 60 fish. Both she and Holwell said the process has been something of a learning experience for them as well as the children, having tried several things to keep the small fish alive, including fans to oxygenate the water and removing the rocks at the bottom of the tank to make cleaning easier.
Brandon Fudge, one of the students in the elementary wing at the school which is home to the project, has taken to checking on the fish every morning. He was most excited to learn how to feed and take care of the fish.
Fellow-student Dakota Anstey enjoyed learning how they grew from eggs to alevin to fry, while Rylee Hawkins hadn’t known before that a person could tell a male fish from a female fish.
“The most fascinating and exciting thing for me was that I didn’t know how they fed when they were little, with the sac on them,” said Cassie Burt. “That was really interesting.”
The same program is running at a school in Carmanville, and sometime during the week of June 18, the classes will head out to the Exploits River to release the salmon into the wild. The spot and day have yet to be decided, but there are plans to let the students name each fish released.
“The main goal is that hopefully these kids will grow up to be good stewards of our salmon stocks in the future,” Holwell said.