Coquitlam Students Working Hard for Salmon
posted Nov 13, 2014 at 2:00 PM— updated Nov 14, 2014 at 10:53 AM
You would think the Centennial secondary school Salmon Project Club would have disbanded long ago.
With no Mossom Creek hatchery to work in and only a concrete shell and a construction site where the original single-story hatchery and education centre was before it burned down last year, you might think the high school kids would have moved on to other pursuits.
You would be wrong.
In fact, the students continue to meet and just a few weeks ago were at the Alouette River collecting brood stock and learning to fertilize eggs for future Mossom salmon. The club is also fundraising for books and technology for the new building, selling “I Survived the Fire” t-shirts and “Socks for Salmon.”
For 38 years, the salmon project has operated at the school, with the original founders Rod MacVicar and Ruth Foster, and now Melanie Mattson, teaching hundreds of teenagers how to run a hatchery and care for B.C.’s iconic species. The students say working at Mossom has helped them understand the importance of fish to the health of the environment, and although disappointed the hatchery has been out of commission since last December because of the fire, they are pleased to see a new hatchery rising on the original site.
“It’s great to see the community coming together,” said Giordano Buo, a Grade 12 Centennial student who admitted to being “traumatized” when the hatchery burned down last year.
When the new building (expected to cost $1.2 million, including outfitting and landscaping) opens with a first-floor hatchery and a multi-purpose room on the second floor, it will contain many important amenities first identified by students who took part in the visioning process. For one thing, it will have an indoor washroom, instead of the outhouse they are used to. But the students are also looking forward to a kitchen area, where they can make hot chocolate and will have an internet connection for doing research and an observation area for studying fish.
Mattson is optimistic the hatchery will re-open in the spring — thanks to community, business and government donations — so students can go back to caring for the salmon. By then, they’ll be “egg picking,” removing dead salmon eggs so fungus doesn’t spread. It’s tedious work, done with tweezers, but she said it’s an important job to keep the hatchery salmon healthy.
On their visit to the Alouette River in October, the students helped catch male and female salmon and collect eggs and “milt” for fertilization. It was hard work, the students said, but worth it to sustain the salmon population.
They had to wear rain gear and stand in the water to catch the salmon, which had to be stunned with a club, and then opened to collect the eggs and milt.
“It’s not fun, but it is something you have to do,” Matthew Davison said.
Surprisingly the entire interview with the students was conducted at Mossom Creek without a smartphone in sight. The students said they were just being polite but they also admitted they enjoy being away from civilization for a while and the daily stress of life falls away when they drive up the narrow gravel road to the hatchery, which is little more than a clearing in the woods.
“We don’t have a salmon app yet,” one student said.
“It’s like a way of escaping from the real world,” Cedric Deduque noted.
The students agree that raising salmon to augment the natural stock is an important job that they are proud to do, and they hope the community continues to support them in their aims.
“We are salmonians,” another student joked.
For a club that looks after salmon, that’s a pretty good title.