Brittney Baker prepares to release salmon fry into MacKay Creek on April 30, alongside fellow school district staff including Indigenous Education teacher Dallas Gus, Swalklanexw.
by Maria Spitale-Leisk, NVSD Communications
As spring dawned, close to 4,000 salmon fry were released into the world after being nurtured by NVSD students and staff through the winter.
The chum’s journey to our schools began on January 22. A handful of staff volunteers drove across North Vancouver’s frozen landscape and up to the Seymour River Fish Hatchery.
Sheltered inside the hatchery, the group peered over stacks of trays coated with tiny pinkish-orange translucent spheres.
NVSD staff scooped up the eggs using a special spatula with 100 slots to cradle the precious cargo for their trip to the schools.
The salmon eggs settled in incubation tanks around the district, intriguing many of our younger students who gobbled up fry facts.
Students learned: Six degrees is a comfortable tank temperature for the embryos, fry survive on a steady diet of krill, and just like babies – need to be fed often during the day.
Caring for the salmon babies at our Education Services Centre was Brittney Baker, building operations co-ordinator.
You could call Baker a chum expert now.
They are an anadromous fish, which means they can live in both fresh and saltwater, she says.
While chum may have historically been the most abundant of all Pacific salmonids, today two populations of this fish are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
MacKay Creek, where the water touches Heywood Park, was instantly bountiful with tiny chum
on the afternoon of April 30.
Clutching a big orange bucket, Baker stood by the creek. Slowly, she released the wriggling fry.
A small group gathered to watch, including two children.
Salmon fry raised at the school district's head office are ready to be released.
As the young fish entered a vast new world, Dallas Gus, Swalklanexw, blessed the occasion with cedar boughs, drumming and song – honouring tradition, knowledge and worldview of the Squamish People.
“He talked about the importance of salmon in the ecosystem, their cultural significance and how ‘one salmon can touch 1,000 lives,’ ” recalls Baker.
School staff also released their salmon fry into local streams around spring break.
Lynnmour Elementary staff commemorate releasing their salmon fry into Lynn Creek.
Every year since 1981, NVSD students have helped thousands of fragile salmon eggs reach the fry stage, through the Salmonids in the Classroom program.
The hands-on experience offers not only a biology lesson to students, but also an
understanding of the salmon’s connection to local First Nations culture and history.
Gus shares with the students and staff the 16,000-year-old Squamish Nation legend of how salmon came to the Squamish River.
"There were so many salmon in the river that you could walk across the river on their backs," he says.
Watch this video of NVSD Sustainability manager Luke Smeaton exploring the underwater world of MacKay Creek after the salmon release.