Bring Back the Salmon

Posted On Thursday June 06, 2019
Principal Quincy James watches as one of his salmon fry takes shelter in the rocks and gravel of Duffins Creek during the Westcreek PS Salmon Run.

By Marissa Campbell

Westcreek Public School embraces environmental stewardship as ambassadors of the Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program

On May 21, Grade 7s from Westcreek PS released 96 salmon fry [baby salmon] into Duffins Creek at Greenwood Conservation Area. The salmon run brought their involvement in the five-month, hands-on Classroom Hatchery Program to a rewarding and exciting conclusion.

The initiative is part of the Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program (Bring Back the Salmon) and invites schools and educational facilities from Hamilton to Kingston to learn about biodiversity, stewardship and habitat, in the hopes of restoring the native species to our waters. In addition to Westcreek PS, 16 other Durham District School Board elementary and secondary schools also took part in the program this year.

Classrooms are given 100 eggs and carefully monitor the tank environment while observing stages of growth and changes in the fish. The program is supported through Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF), along with several community partners.

Sayat, a Grade 7 student at Westcreek PS and one of the hosts of the TVO show, Fishheads Explorer Club, has had a lot of opportunities to release different kinds of fish, but this experience was special. “Watching them grow was the best thing,” exclaims Sayat. “I always looked in the tank and wondered, ‘Are they ready yet?’” She hopes the fish remember the people who were good to them and come back to their home. “I hope every one of them comes back and gets used to their environment, and I hope people learn to stop polluting the earth and waters.”

Building connections

Atlantic Salmon used to be very abundant in Lake Ontario, and the fish relied on more than 40 different creeks and streams that fed into the lake. Due to human activities and settlement, including overfishing, pollution, dams and bank erosion from land clearing, Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon became extinct in 1896.

Ben Teskey an ecologist with OFAH stressed the benefits of Bring Back the Salmon. “We have a stocking element, with the classroom hatcheries, and an outreach and educational component,” explains Teskey. “It teaches the students about land restoration, habitat, geography and social elements.”

But Teskey acknowledges it’s also about the experience. “Best of all, the kids were connected to the fish and they were connected to the story of the fish,” says Teskey. “There’s a history there, and all the elements come together in this one significant moment of releasing the fish.”