Salmon in the classroom

Minnigaff School children gather around their salmon eggs within the classroom'
Minnigaff School children gather around their salmon eggs within the classroom'

THE Galloway Fisheries Trust (GFT) have just completed delivering the first two parts of their “Salmon in the Classroom” project to five primary school classes across the region.

This year Dalbeattie, St Peters R.C., Minnigaff and Sheuchan Primary Schools have been taking part with things a little behind the usual schedule having suffered a long cold winter leaving salmon eggs well behind their normal development.

Delivery of the project is undertaken in three parts. The first takes place in spring when a GFT biologist visits the class, gives a short PowerPoint presentation which educates on everything from bio-security and habitat enhancement works to improve spawning grounds for juvenile production to conservation-minded river fisheries where sport can be enjoyed without compromising vital native salmon stocks. The visit ends with the biologist setting up a tank system in a cold place in the school where 100 native salmon eggs are left to hatch under the care of the class. Once hatched, the salmon are ready to be transported to their native river system and the second part of the project takes place. Now at their local river, the class are briefed on the salmon life cycle and the attributes of the burn as a good salmon spawning site. The children then participate in safely releasing the young salmon before travelling to the GFT hatchery where they see their hatching units on a far greater scale (up to 300,000 wild salmon and sea trout are reared here every winter).

Before leaving, the children tour the rainbow trout farm upon which the hatchery is situated. This part of the project is a good insight into the conservation reasoning behind wild fish hatchery operation (for combating the effects of acidification etc) versus rainbow trout farming for commercial production. Part three takes place in the summer and sees the children return to the spawning burn where they oversee GFT staff undertaking electrofishing to collect fish from the burn. This hands-on part of the project is often the most fun and best demonstrates the different juvenile stages of the salmon life cycle but also is a great insight into what else lives in the burn (eels, lamprey, inverts etc).

Salmon in the classroom project has been successfully run by Galloway Fisheries Trust on an annual basis since 1991. Popularity in the project has increased in recent years and it is now run by various Trusts and River Boards throughout Scotland.

GFT have been funded this year by Scottish Natural Heritage who also provide a dedicated website which combines all the information schools need to get them started (see www.snh.org.uk/salmonintheclassroom/)

If you know of a local primary school that would like to be involved next year, please contact Rowan Armstrong at the GFT on 01671 40 3011 for your details to be taken.