The Salmon in Schools program, cut by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife last fall as part of the State’s 2010-2011 fiscal year budget reductions, will likely continue in Seattle schools.
Upon learning that Fish & Wildlife may no longer fund the statewide program, Seattle Council President Richard Conlin requested that Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) find a way to support the program for Seattle school children. SPU is offering additional support for the program at a cost of $10,000 per year through the Restore Our Waters program.
“Environmental stewardship starts young,” said Council President Richard Conlin. “Kids learn best by seeing and interacting with nature and wildlife. The Salmon in Schools program is a successful example of hands-on education. I had to do something to preserve this valuable resource, and I hope that other municipalities and organizations around the state will do the same.”
The Salmon in Schools program, established in 1991, is an educational project that encourages respect for our aquatic resources and promotes responsible behavior toward the environment. Large tanks and salmon eggs are provided to both public and private schools and students learn about the salmon lifecycle and the interrelationships between water quality and habitat issues by watching the salmon hatch and grow into fry. Eggs are provided by state and tribal hatcheries. The salmon are released into local streams after about 12 weeks. Statewide, an average of 495 schools participated each year, reaching 40,000 students. Approximately 50 of those schools are in Seattle.
In addition to supplying the eggs and providing and maintaining the tanks, Fish & Wildlife funding has supported administering the permits necessary to release the salmon into the streams. All schools raising salmon require permits and staffing the administration of these permits will need to be resolved for the program to continue.
Fish & Wildlife is exploring ways to continue the program with private or non-profit funding if the cuts become permanent, and in the meantime SPU has offered to assume the cost of maintaining the tanks used in Seattle schools. SPU will also continue partnering with local watershed groups, Seattle school district staff, and teachers to implement and maintain the educational component of the program.
“This program is an engaging way for youth to garner an understanding of the important connections between salmon and healthy waters,” said Ray Hoffman, Director of Seattle Public Utilities. For this year, salmon eggs have already been delivered to schools across the City and kids and grown-ups alike are excited to watch them hatch, grow and swim away down one of Seattle’s streams.