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Grade 2s Release Salmon Fry into Bowker Creek

Grade 2 students released 99 salmon fry into Bowker Creek.
As Grade 2 students at GNS have done for many years, Ms. Judy Newman’s and Ms. Kathryn Wild’s Grade 2 classes spent much of this year learning about salmon and the start of their life cycle. On January 27, the students received 100 chum salmon eggs from the Goldstream Hatchery and, since that time, they have been studying and taking care of the developing salmon as they went through their metamorphic life cycle, from egg to alevin (a tiny salmon with a big yolk sac on its belly), until finally, they became fry. 

On May 3, students saw their hard work come to fruition when they took the 99 chum salmon fry that survived and released them into Bowker Creek. This was a special moment, as this was the first year in nearly 100 years that salmon have been seen in that waterway. 

Throughout the process, students reflected on what they had observed about the salmon life cycle.

“We were getting worried that the other 80 fertilized eggs might not hatch! Between March 4 to 8, every one of the last 80 eggs hatched into alevin. They are all hiding in the rocks.” 

On April 5 they observed, “We were away for 17 days. The salmonids are still alive and hiding in the rocks. They grew to two centimetres long, dark grey and black on top and silvery on the bottom.”

The Grade 2 classes also had Indigenous Educator Mr. James Taylor speak to them about the importance of salmon in Bowker Creek. 

“He’s been extraordinary,” said Ms. Newman. “All year, James has been talking to the students about the power of connecting with nature and stewarding it.”

This past January, Fisheries and Oceans Canada approved a plan to place nearly 30,000 chum eggs in the creek. On March 30, some salmon fry were spotted in the creek bed. 

“This is the beginning of bringing salmon back to Bowker Creek where they once were,” said Ms. Newman to the students before releasing the fry. “This is the very first year, and I know we keep telling you that, but you are doing something so special right now.” 

The Grade 2 students, along with parent volunteers, walked up Bowker Creek to the Glen Atkinson Amphitheatre to release the fry. Students were each given two salmon and then given a moment to say goodbye and reflect on the moment. 

Gerald Harris from the Friends of Bowker Creek Society spoke with the students about Bowker Creek and how important it was this year for salmon to be released into the water. 

“I’ve lived here all my life, and went to school at St. Patrick’s, so I went to school on Bowker Creek. My family (brothers and sisters) would play in Bowker Creek. Now I teach here on Bowker Creek,” said Ms. Newman. “It just shows the power that even if we do muck it up, do knock out the balance of nature then it’s never too late. If these fish come back I think it will be a reconciliation with the First Nations that lived here and the power of people to make a change.”

Bowker Creek meanders through Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay. The headwaters are located at the University of Victoria and the creek flows parallel to Shelbourne Street, around Hillside Mall, past Oak Bay High School and empties into Oak Bay near GNS. 
 
This is the 25th year that Grade 2 students at GNS have raised salmon to release, once again demonstrating how they embody  the First Nations phrase Wy kan ush pum, which means “we are all salmon people.” 
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We wish to acknowledge and respect the Lekwungen-Speaking Peoples on whose traditional territory we stand, and the Songhees, Esquimalt and Wsáneć Peoples whose historical relationships with the land, where we live, work, play and learn, continue to this day.