Elementary Students Release Juvenile Atlantic Salmon

Elementary Students Release Juvenile Atlantic Salmon

Fish Friends Launch Staff from the Gespe’gewa’gi Institute of Natural Understanding (GINIU) stood along the Eel River helping students from the L.E. Reinsborough School as they released juvenile Atlantic salmon into the river. These students are one out of five fish friend releases being held this summer by students from our local schools, Terry Fox Elementary, Alaqsitew Gitpu School, and the Leadership program from Ugpi’ganjig. These young salmon began their life cycle as eyed-eggs and were raised inside aquariums placed in their classroom in April.

They hatched from their eggs as alevins carrying a sac that will provide them nutrients until they are able to eat on their own when they reach the fry stage of their life cycle. Hunter remembers the day the Atlantic salmon eggs arrived at his school.


“They have two eyes that look like a bowling ball,” described Hunter. “I never seen eggs that were fish, I only seen tadpoles.”




During the Fish Friends program, GINU Research Technician Jessica Gideon and Fish Friends volunteer Roland Lavallee visited the schools and shared their knowledge on caring for the fish tank and talked about the life cycle of the Atlantic Salmon. Phoenix, a student at the L.E.R learned something new about this species. “I never knew their age goes up by days and degrees.” The Fish Friends program brought a two-eyed seeing approach, using both western science and Mi’gmaq Knowledge, to the classroom. Atlantic salmon is a very important species to the Mi’gmaq people. AGS Student Danny talked about his relationship to Atlantic salmon, “Because it is our food, and it is our way we can have food, so we won’t starve.”


As the students carried glass jars with Atlantic salmon fry in them to the river, AGS student Adele built a relationship with her jar of fish. “I named the first one Adele, and I named the other one rocky and then I named the other sweet.” explained Adele. “Watching them swim around when they were in the jar, and they looked at me. I think they were saying that I wanted to be released.”

As Adele lowered to the riverside, she brought her jar to the water and poured the contents into the river. “You are supposed to walk away from the water as soon as you put the little salmon in.” The Atlantic Salmon fry swam away into the river, and the students left the shoreline to continue their celebration of the Fish Friends release. “Today was nice. It was a nice goodbye to the plamu.” Said AGA Student Ryker.

This year the Fish Friends program had five separate release dates. The juvenile Atlantic salmon have been released back into their natal rivers, on either the Jacquet River or Eel River to continue their life cycle.


Fish Friends volunteer Roland Lavallee reflects on program. “For me it’s for the kids and the little salmon that we put inside of the river,” explained Roland. “I believe in it, and when you believe in something, and you are passionate about it. When the kids have the project, they learn so many things, they don’t forget what we are doing.”

Throughout his years volunteering with this program Roland always had a big smile on his face and his eyes twinkled as he watched the kids release the fish back into the river. After volunteering for this program for over 35 years, GINU staff and Ugpiganjig Director of Education Tiffanie LaBillois honored Roland’s dedication to this program and presented him a framed Atlantic salmon art piece created by a craftsperson from Listuguj. Retirement is far from Roland’s mind, and he is looking forward to helping out with the Fish Friends program next year.