Fish Friends Release Day 2016

by Jessica Gideon, Aquatic Research Technician

With our Fish Friends program just wrapping up this past week in the schools of Alaqsite’w Gitpu, L.E.Reinsborough, and Terry Fox Elementary, it’s a perfect time to reflect on the work that was put into making the program such a success.

Our first day setting up the aquarium went off without a hitch, well almost.  As usual, we began our day by gathering fresh spring water, trudging through 2 feet of freshly fallen snow, but eventually getting all the water onto our truck, and to the schools. The aquarium preparation was going as planned, when one false move sends our water cart flying, spilling 20 gallons of water all over the classroom floor; I’m not pointing fingers but let’s thank Denny 😛  Luckily, the cleanup didn’t take too long!

Finally, we have all our aquariums running smoothly and its time for the Atlantic salmon eyed (fertilized) eggs.  This day brings thrill to the classrooms, and the students’ enthusiasm is always in high gear at this time.  Once the eggs are deposited into the tank, we remind the students that they are now responsible for these little lives, and they must ensure the environment remains cool, clean and quiet.

Over the next 3 months, presentations are given in each classroom to teach the students about the salmons’ lifecycle, migration, environmental stewardship, and the importance of Atlantic salmon to the Mi’gmaq; playing a vital role in our culture and identity.

Now, the big day has arrived!! It’s June 9th, and the time has come to release our near 1200 salmon fry into their natal waters of Jacquet River.  Coming together are the 3 schools, with almost 100 students, several teachers and parents, the GMRC staff, and of course, the man of the hour and our dedicated volunteer, Roland Lavallee.

Despite rainy weather conditions, and higher than normal water levels, the day’s events went swimminly (pun intended).  The fun was initiated with an ice-breaker activity to acquaint all the children with each other and to get the excitement building.  Following the activity, everyone was gathered together in a circle and handed a cup of water to participate in the water ceremony, giving thanks to the water and all of Mother Earth’s creatures.

The big moment is here, and each student grabs their mason jar of salmon fry, and slooooowly walks towards the water, not really wanting to relinquish their fish to the flowing waters, but also knowing the salmon have to go back to their natural habitat.  It is at this time, we can all take pride in knowing that we have certainly created a lasting memory in these children’s lives.

I would like to thank the teachers who make the program such a success; without your support, the program would not be achievable.  I would like to send a big hug out to Roland Lavallee- his passion for Fish Friends always shines through.  And finally, I would like to acknowledge the contributions of the Listuguj Subway and Victor Bernard & Sons; Thank you!!