Students help restore salmon runs

The story of salmon and Lamprey

— All 100 salmon fingerlings made it to a spring release into the Yakima River last week.

“…Well, all but one,” said biologist Rachel Little, of the Benton Conservation District.

She was on hand as Grandview High School biology teacher Jennifer Santjer and her students said goodbye to the salmon they hatched and raised during the past two months in their classroom.

“Although it was a sad morning for some students, the day was filled with exciting learning opportunities,” Little said.

As a reminder of the experience, students took selfies with their fingerlings before setting the tiny fish loose into the wild.

The students have been caring for the salmon since early January when 100 eggs were placed into a protected fish tank at the high school.

After releasing fish at the Prosser Hatchery, Yakama Nation Fisheries staff gave the young science students a tour of the Chandler juvenile bypass facility.

“Students were able to touch live juvenile fish including spring chinook salmon, coho salmon, steel-head and a stickleback,” Little said.

She said the students learned how these fish are monitored on their journey through check stations and tagging efforts.

“They also learned about the first adult steelhead re-conditioning program in the world, which is conducted at the Prosser Hatchery,” Little said.

Students also saw large adult sturgeon at the Prosser Hatchery, many of them over four feet long.

Little said the students were given an also opportunity to tour the innovative lamprey captive rearing program at the Prosser Hatchery.

“Staff explained the lamprey's unusual anatomy and complicated life cycle, in addition to which the students handled the adult lamprey, which drew mixed re-views,” she said.

They also fed the juvenile lamprey a combination of yeast and wheat flour.

GHS students also enjoyed a once-a-year opportunity - to see a fully automated fish marking trailer in action. This trailer is capable of removing the adipose fin and inserting coded wire tags in up to 70,000 salmon fry per day. The adipose fin must be removed from hatchery salmon as a way to identify them, because some fishing laws are different for hatchery-raised or wild salmon, Little explained.

Grandview wasn’t the only local school to be raising salmon, Little said.

Sunnyside Christian High School and the several Sunnyside School District elementary schools, she said.

The next student salmon release field trip to Prosser Hatchery will be Thursday April 12, for six classes at Chief Kamiakin Elementary school, Little said.

PROSSER — Lamprey fossils date back 450,000 years! Although invasive predatory sea lamprey cause problems in the Great Lakes and eastern United States, our local native Pacific lam-prey are important ecologically to our watershed, as filter feeders, an alternative prey to salmon and as nutri-ents. Tribal members also taught students about the cultural significance of lam-prey and salmon to the Yakama people.

Adult female steelhead are often weakened after spawning in the wild, and although they don't neces-sarily die after spawning like salmon, many of them suc-cumb to parasites or disease during the stress of spawning season. The Yakama's steel-head reconditioning program involves capturing some of these wild fish post-spawning, then giving them extra TLC like high protein krill for food, protection from predators, quiet rest, and any medication they might need to fight infec-tions or parasites. After several months in the program, these steelhead are once again fat and healthy. These fish are released back into the wild, where they will re-produce again. Repeat spawning steelhead are often even more successful at producing offspring.


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