Students from Grades 5 and 6 at John J. Sark Memorial School in Lennox Island and Bloomfield Elementary School got into fishy dealings on May 29 as they released salmon and trout into the Carruthers Brook at Bloomfield Provincial Park.
The release was done as part of the Fish Friends program, run by the Abegweit Conservation Society.
Releasing the fish while they’re still at a very young stage of their life cycle is important for several reasons.
“Because the salmon return to their natal river to spawn, they need to be in their natural environment at a young stage so they can absorb their environment,” said Eliza Knockwood, a coordinator with the Abegweit Conservation Society. “Here in Prince Edward Island, the (Atlantic) salmon is a species of concern. With the Fish Friends Program and having the school actively involved, we’re able to maintain to some capacity, the population of the salmon.”
Before the salmon could be released into the river a ceremony was held, led my Methilda Knockwood-Snache, a Mi’kmak Elder. A circle was formed, and a smudging ceremony was performed, followed by prayers, a water ceremony, and a drumming ceremony.
“The ceremony was because we have so much trouble with the waters,” said Ms Knockwood-Snache. “We prayed for the water, so that the fish would grow up to be big fish, and we pray because they become a part of us later when we eat them and we nurture off of them. We ask the Creator to look after them so that some day they’ll look after us and become part of us.”
Forming a line, students released the tiny fish into the brook one by one in little paper cups until the over 100 fish were released into the river.
Helping students with the fish transfer was John Lane, coordinator of the Cascumpec Bay Watershed Association (CBWA).
Speaking before the prayer ceremony began, Mr Lane explained to the students that the water from the brook, like all of the brooks and rivers in the province, comes from the ground, and that everything done to the land is eventually done to the water.
“We’re teaching younger children to respect nature, that they have a role to play in helping with our habitats,” he said. “The younger you start them the better.”
Ms Knockwood said having the CBWA as partners in the Fish Friends program is important because members of the various watershed groups in the province do so much to help, like clearing the river systems and reporting any obstructions to the fish passage.
“The state of the salmon is an indicator of the state of the environment,” she said. “Having the watersheds as partners, their role is critical in maintaining the streams, the river systems, to support the health and well-being of the salmon species itself.”
A total of 21 schools are involved with Fish Friends, and there are several more fish releases planned for locations across the province.