Powell River Salmon Society was a beehive of activity for three days when School District 47 students were hosted to learn about the lifecycle of Pacific salmon.
Tyler Bartfai, hatchery technician, said students would be touring the hatchery facility at Lang Creek and learning about Pacific salmon and the challenges they face.
“Students can start at our main vehicle bridge and check our fence and how it operates,” said Bartfai. “They can come into the building and see chum salmon female egg takes. We have information on salmon habitat and some closeups of eggs and fish scales under microscopes.
“We’ve been having great, positive responses from all ages.”
Bartfai said volunteers and staff at the hatchery are knowledgeable and adaptive to different learning groups and learning phases the classes are in. He said they can go with broad strokes for the younger children and get into more specifics with the older students.
“We’re hoping to make a new generation of salmon champions and people who can really speak to the challenges that salmon are facing; also, to the importance of the ecosystems,” said Bartfai. “This is a great way to plant some seeds, and hopefully, grow another generation of people who are really engaged with Pacific salmon and the habitat.”
Bartfai said the salmon, as well as the salmon society itself, need as many advocates and allies as they can get.
“We’re largely community funded and get more than 10,000 volunteer hours a year,” said Bartfai. “The community support we get is absolutely pivotal to the work we do.”
As well as the learning students receive, there is the hope they will go home and spark a passion with their parents, according to Bartfai.
“Hopefully, the students can get their parents down to the river again this fall and get their parents engaged as well as themselves,” said Barfai.
Those wanting to learn more about the lifecycle of salmon can head to salmoneducation.org, which is maintained by Powell River Salmon Society for educational purposes.
Shane Dobler, manager of the salmon society, said it is important for school-aged children to go to the Lang Creek hatchery and learn more about the life cycle of salmon.
“It’s even more so this year because of the return of the school classes to our facility,” said Dobler. “Last year, we didn’t have that and this year we are moving ahead cautiously and safely.”
Dobler said hatchery staff and volunteers show all aspects of the operation to the students.
“We’re doing an egg take, we have dissections, we have fish and eggs developing,” said Dobler. “We also have our new outdoor pathway the students can access, which was as a result of the community getting together and spearheading that project.
“I can’t say enough about the effort the community puts in. It was all donations and volunteer labour that put it in.”
Dobler said there were 400 students coming through the facility through the three days and people visiting the site non-stop, watching the salmon, eagles and other wildlife that frequent the facility. In addition, open houses were held for the public to come and see the operation firsthand.
“It’s really important,” said Dobler. “We are always building our team. Last year, we didn’t get the opportunity. We’ve got the introduction of some young people into our volunteer base. Having them understand what goes on, that’s important to our organization, long term.
“We have a very small staff. We run on fumes. They are really an all-star team.”
Dobler said donations are sustaining the operation and to get further, additional funding needs to be found.
“What we’ve built here is really successful,” said Dobler. “When we count fish, that’s how many there are. It’s not a guess. When we produce fish, we can see them come back to the environmental monitoring side.”
The hatchery releases nearly two million salmon a year.
Dobler said the organization’s focus is building the team. Having the students come and learn about salmon is an important step because they gain an appreciation for the salmon, which can lead to a lifelong interest in maintaining and enhancing salmon stocks, he added.
Andrew Shostak, a teacher at Kelly Creek Community School, who was along with the students for a tour of the salmon hatchery, and who also runs the school’s outdoor adventure program, said the whole school had a chance to learn about Pacific salmon.
“We spent a full morning,” said Shostak. “The salmon society has done a wonderful job this year of organizing some wonderful stations for the students to be able to visit, creating a great experience for them to really realize what they have out here in their own backyard.
“The students really enjoy it and like to see things in real life. It’s one thing to look at a picture. It’s another thing to experience it. They are excited and it’s an awesome thing. To see the miracles that are happening in real life is what they are really going to remember.”
Shostak said the students start going to the hatchery in kindergarten, and by the time they reach grade seven, they have been to the hatchery enough times to become young experts.
“It’s pretty neat to see,” said Shostak. “There’s lots to see and lots to experience and there’s lots of happy kids enjoying their time outside.”