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Cariboo classrooms can see, assist, in salmon life cycle

Stream to Sea Program provides direct experience of the salmon life cycle for students
Martin Kruus helps visitors at his Stream to Sea booth put the watershed model back together. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Students can learn about salmon from Stream to Sea, thanks to the program of the same name.

The program is a project by Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Habitat and Enhancement Branch.

Students have a chance to rear salmon from tiny eggs to salmon fry and then participate in a release of the salmon into a stream in order for them to complete their life cycle.

Classrooms are issued licences to be able to raise 30 salmon from eggs to fry in their classes, with program facilitators visiting classrooms four or five times a year to educate students with age-appropriate information on the salmon life cycle. In October they receive the aquarium and prepare it for the eggs. In December they receive the eggs from a hatchery and then in May or June, the students are able to release the fry.

Available for students in Kindergarten through Grade 12 across British Columbia, both School District 27 and 28 in the Cariboo have participating classrooms.

Nicole Johnston, a fisheries biologist, helps facilitate the program in Quesnel in School District 28 area, with seven classrooms participating last year, and now nine this year.

With the many challenges facing salmon in our province, such as the Big Bar slide and high water temperatures, Johnston said it is a way to help get people interested in the species to help inspire people to care about and help protect salmon.

Johnston said with so many cool aspects of the life history of the salmon, it is an interesting species to learn about.

She said one of her favourites of the amazing life cycle of salmon is how the fish can smell the nutrient content of the water they were born in. Salmon will return and spawn within 100 m of where they were born.

In School District 27, Martini Kruus facilitates the program and said there are 12 classes in the district participating this school year, from all age ranges.

At the Horsefly Salmon Festival, the Stream to Sea program had booths with a watershed model and invertebrates which help feed salmon, and a dissection and life cycle booth where visitors learned about the structure and life cycle of the species.

At the life cycle booth, retired biologist Judy Hillaby explained how spawning channels can help to improve spawning success rates for salmon.

By controlling the density of returning adults to the channel, they help ensure spawning salmon are not overcrowded and damaging the egg nests laid by other spawners.

By controlling the flow, the channels can help maintain more ideal conditions for both salmon and the fertilized eggs.

With stable banks, erosion and sedimentation is also reduced, which can smother vulnerable eggs before they can mature.

With clean, graded gravel, fish nests full of eggs are also in optimal conditions for oxygen and also less sedimentation, which can smother vulnerable eggs.

While only 10 per cent of salmon eggs surviving in nature, in the controlled spawning channels, this survival rate for eggs can be as high as 78 per cent.

READ MORE: PHOTOS: Day one of Horsefly River Salmon Festival goes swimmingly

READ MORE: Horsefly River salmon begin “invisible migration” from Cariboo to Coast

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