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Salmon biology, ecology on lesson plan for North Saanich students in fry release

Release of 80 coho salmon fry promises to help restore Reay Creek after last year’s bleach spill
Executive coordinator Ian Bruce receives $2,000 on behalf of the Peninsula Streams Society from the Saanich Peninsula Community Foundation, represented by Tim Maloney and Deborah Rogers. Bruce said the donation will help the society continue its educational programming. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

A group of Grade 3 students from KELSET Elementary in North Saanich received a hands-on lesson in the biology of salmon and the ecology of the Reay Creek, to be renamed KELSET.

Students of Anne Mackinnon’s class released some 80 coho fry into the waterway last Friday afternoon, during which they also learnt more about the history of the creek as well as its biology from volunteers and staff with Peninsula Streams Society.

Mackinnon said the release is meaningful for students and gives the subject a tangible dimension.

“They all name their little fry before they release them into the water and it so enhances learning about the salmon life cycle and what crucial role salmon play in our ecosystem,” said Mackinnon. “In our schools, the Grade 2s go to Goldstream and they see the salmon at the end of their life and then in Grade 3, we get the eggs and we do it in reserve. They get to see the beginning of their life.”

Historically, Mackinnon’s students would release fry, which they had raised themselves through incubators. “They hatched to the alevin stage and then they all died,” she said. “I have done this for 15 years in a row and I never lost eggs. So luckily, Peninsula Streams Society donated 80 fry.”

RELATED: Several hundred fish dead in Sidney’s Reay Creek after suspected bleach leak

The experience offered an educational moment.

“We did go back and found the why,” said Mackinnon. The hatchery, which supplied the eggs, had flooded during November’s atmospheric river, changing the temperature of the water and thereby affecting the hatch. “That’s probably why they did,” she said. “They got to understand that (the alevins) didn’t just die and it wasn’t anything that they had done.”

Friday’s release came almost exactly one year after bleach leaked into the creek, killing hundreds of fish, including 318 cutthroat trout.

Ian Bruce, executive coordinator of the Peninsula Streams Society, said Friday’s release will help in the general recovery of the creek.

The society also received a $2,000 donation from the Saanich Peninsula Community Foundation with foundation president Tim Maloney and Deborah Rogers, board director, presenting the money to Bruce.

Bruce said the foundation’s ongoing support will help the society continue to deliver its environmental education program to local schools, while strengthening ties with the community. “It’s supporting stewardship and environmental education.”

Bruce said the society is very grateful for the donation, which is especially meaningful because of its source. “We get grants from other organizations and foundations that are really nice to get, but when it comes from our own neighbourhood, it means that much more.”

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Austin Nolan of the Peninsula Streams Society interacts with Grade 3 students from KELSET Elementary School as they learn about the biology of salmon while releasing 80 fry. (Courtesy Shelly Selivanov)

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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