Students from Tillicum Elementary attended the Colquitz River fish fence on Thursday morning for a dissection demonstration.
It’s salmon spawning season and the fish have begun their trek up the Colquitz River. Children from neighbouring schools come by the fish fence – managed by Salmon in the City – frequently to watch volunteers work and to learn about the slippery creatures.
Salmon in the City volunteer Dorothy Chambers had lined up a presentation by staff from the World Fisheries Trust for the students.
First, researcher Heather Wright and executive director Yogi Carolsfeld showed the children some stuffed animal replicas of salmon complete with zippered bellies and removable fabric guts. The children were able to handle the pretend guts to get a sense of what fish organs look like.
Chambers had picked up frozen chum from the hatchery in Goldstream for the occasion as there were no fish in the Colquitz River for the past few days due to a lack of rain. She plopped them into the trap and then removed them with a large net to show the kids how volunteers get the fish out of the water to collect data. She explained to them that right now, the males have big red noses which volunteers refer to as their “dating clothes” because it means they’re ready to mate.
After she’d pulled all the frozen salmon from the river, it was time for a real dissection. Carolsfeld took over and cut open the fish. The students screamed and plugged their noses. He showed the students each organ as he pulled it out and they leaned closer to get a good look – the teachers kept their distance.
One of the fish had a few eggs left inside and he explained that they sit in the fish’s body cavity until she lays them. Carolsfeld also noted that at hatcheries, the eggs have a 98 per cent survival rate while there’s only a 10 per cent survival rate if they’re laid in the river. He emphasized that there are pros and cons to both.
The World Fisheries Trust works with several schools – including Tillicum Elementary – on marine education programs. For example, a 70-gallon seaquaria full of different species of invertebrates and fish was set up in the lobby at Tillicum Elementary. One of the classes monitors the tank and reports the data to the World Fisheries Trust.
The researchers do lots of demonstrations and talks during the spawning season, Wright explained.
Students of all ages stop by the fish fence to observe and learn weekly and Chambers is just as enthusiastic every time.