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VIDEO: Oak Bay elementary students send chum fry down the creek

Willows kids release nearly 200 small salmon into Bowker Creek

About 800 more chum fry start their voyage to the sea from Oak Bay this month thanks to kids from classrooms across the community.

Among them are the Willows elementary students who released chum fry into Bowker Creek near the Glenn Atkinson outdoor classroom behind Oak Bay High on Friday.

READ ALSO: Out of the streambed gravel comes harbinger of waning pollution in Oak Bay creek

Cathy Ireton’s Grade 2/3 class and Shari Alexander’s Grade 2 class converged on the amphitheatre May 6 to release the fish they raised from eggs. Each class incubated 100, with 199 surviving to chum phase, to join the 30,000 hatched earlier this spring in a man-made rocky bed near the community allotment gardens.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada approved both projects to see the return of salmon in the rejuvenated waters of Bowker Creek. Over the years, the creek that crosses through Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay became an enclosed waterway subject to environmental damage.

In the last decade or so active programs, many created and organized by the Friends of Bowker Creek Society, have cleared areas of invasive plants, recreated natural habitat and educated the community in a bid to keep contaminants out of the waterway.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay society shares thrill of finding fish fry swimming in Bowker

Brian Smith, education coordinator with Seaquaria Ocean Education, leads the federally-funded salmon in the classroom program. The program is in classrooms across the province, but on the south Island about 95 schools from Sooke through the Gulf Islands participate with students releasing almost 10,000 salmon in nearly 20,000 streams.

READ ALSO: Almost 30,000 salmon eggs planted in Oak Bay section of Bowker Creek

“It’s a really good way of connecting, usually elementary schools … with the outdoors and salmon education as part of the school curriculum. Releasing salmon touches on a lot of different subjects in social sciences, biology as well as just general outdoor education,” Smith said.

The stream to sea program through Fisheries and Oceans Canada is more than three decades old. It is provided locally by Seaquaria, a Victoria charity that supports equitable, sustainable use, and conservation of aquatic resources through education, research, and stewardship. In another program, the organization provides fully stocked saltwater aquariums to schools and has 18 tanks in elementary, middle and high school classrooms across the region this year.

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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