By Jackie Farwell
Wednesday, January 31, 2007 – Bangor Daily News
PERRY – Fourth-graders at the Perry Elementary School are excited about fish eggs.
And not just any fish eggs, but salmon eggs from the nearby Dennys River.
Soon the 200 salmon eggs the pupils helped plant in their classroom fish tank will develop and grow. Then, dressed in hip waders and carrying fishnets, the kids will set them free in the Dennys River, where their ancestors once roamed.
It is hoped that some of the tiny salmon will survive to return to spawn.
“It’s kind of challenging because we’re only putting 200 salmon in,” Downeast Salmon Federation educator Jacob van de Sande said Tuesday. “The average female salmon lays about 7,000 eggs, and in a stable population you only expect two of those to survive. That isn’t to say we don’t have some special salmon. Five returned to the Dennys this past summer and maybe some of those were raised right here in this school.”
The Downeast Salmon Federation sponsors the program. Van de Sande was at the Perry Elementary School to provide an update on the project with pupils.
The eggs arrived last week.
Teacher Jason Herod said this is not a new program. “This is our fourth year of doing this,” he said of the classroom project. Herod’s class includes youngsters ages 9 to 11.
It’s all part of an important restoration effort. “These salmon all came from the Craig Brook Hatchery in East Orland,” van de Sande said. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a hatchery there. These salmon that are in that tank, their parents came from the Dennys River. They were raised at the hatchery. They were spawned last fall and then the eggs were transferred with my help to this classroom.”
The pupils will serve as foster parents until the end of May, when they will release the salmon. “They hatch out of their shell and we observe them. We record some data on them, water temperature, how many survive,” Herod said. “Then we go down to the Dennys River and release them into the river.”
Herod said the kids were excited about the project.
“I think it’s really a cool project,” Shannon Farris, 9, said, “because we got to actually raise salmon and try to save the species. I’m excited to see how many salmon survive in the tank because it’s a big task to help them.” Farris said someday she’d like to be a scientist “who digs up dinosaur bones.”
Asked what he thinks of the projects, fellow classmate Jaq Skriletz, 9, said, “Wicked sweet because I’ve never done this before. The only fish tanks I’ve ever set up never lasted more than one month.”
When the eggs were placed in the tank, Skriletz said, they looked like raindrops being dropped into the water.
John Curry, 9, said he was looking forward to placing the salmon in the stream. “That’s going to be really cool,” he said.
The salmon are expected to hatch in late February. “They will stay right there [in the tank] living off their yolk sac until about the first week in May,” van de Sande said. “That mimics what’s going on in the river. The wild fish follow that same process. The first food these guys will eat will be wild food in the river.”
The federation’s mission is to conserve wild Atlantic salmon and its habitat, restore a viable sports fishery and protect other important river, scenic, recreational and ecological resources in eastern Maine, the group said in its newsletter last year.