Salmon in Our Classroom

by Primary 7 at St Madoes Primary School

On Tuesday the 2nd February, our salmon eggs arrived in the classroom. We had been given the tank the day before along with a presentation detailing how to care for our salmon eggs and an explanation of the life cycle of the Atlantic salmon.  Our eggs were transported by Mr Montgomery who was a Perth and Kinross Countryside Ranger; he was the expert who was guiding us through this wonderful process. Moreover he helped us to look after and care for our salmon eggs by phoning the school every single day to check our water temperature readings and to see if we had any problems. He was really enthusiastic about the project and he even came to fix the leak in the tank!  We really enjoyed having Mr Montgomery helping us as he was very friendly which made the project more enjoyable.

We had a month with our salmon in our classroom, where we had to check the water temperature 4 times a day as well as looking for mortalities. The temperature needed to remain under 10°C preferably about 7°C. We saw the salmon eyed eggs transform into alevins (these are the newly hatched salmon with yolk sacks) during this time.

StMadoesSalmon1

Sadly we had to release our alevins into Annaty Burn because their yolk sacks were running out of food. The alevins were turning into fry and needed to have a source of small water organisms or insects to feed on. We carried out fascinating field tests in order to make sure that the water was safe for the alevins to be released in to.  The field tests involved testing the PH level of the water, the speed of the water flow, the depth of the water where we would release our alevins, the temperature of the water and the water purity.  Mr Montgomery and Mrs Whyte (also a Perth and Kinross Countryside Ranger) led us in our field tests.

We also had a trip to the Tay Salmon Hatchery at Almondbank. There we were introduced to different members of staff who explained what their jobs involved in great depth.  Steve, the Hatchery manager, took us into a small cold room that contained 136 trays.  Each tray contained 5 000 salmon eggs or alevins that were checked daily for mortalities.  Steve also cared for grilse salmon that were kept in large tanks that looked like big round baths.  Steve had to train the wild salmon to eat in fresh water by hand feeding them with individual prawns on a large stick before moving them on to a special mix that he created and made daily.  We were fortunate enough to witness a salmon eating a prawn a sight that most people will never see.

StMadoesSalmon2

Craig, a bailiff, regularly patrolled the River Tay and its tributaries to make sure that anglers had the correct permits to fish there. He would also go around the rivers at night searching for poachers.  Craig showed us equipment that poachers used to catch salmon as well as the specialist equipment that he used to catch them red handed.  This consisted of a camouflaged suit, a variety of cameras, night vision binoculars and scopes.  He told us that he works closely with the local police and has the power to arrest poachers.  We think that it is pretty cool!

Mike, a marine biologist specialising in fish, showed us fry and smolt that had been caught in the River Almond that morning. He presented us with a ‘stunning’ device that looked like a huge and heavy metal detector which he explained was used to electro-fish.  This is where an electrical current is pulsed through the water for a few seconds and any fish in this area are temporarily stunned making them easy to catch with a net (This does not harm the fish).

Lastly we met Dr David Summers, the fisheries director, who talked us through a video of how they caught and transported the wild salmon from a variety of Highland Perthshire rivers back to the Almondbank hatchery. This was a very hard and laborious process as it was in a very cold and isolated environment.  He also discussed how they restock the tributaries of the River Tay with salmon eggs and alevins as well as the process involved in this.

The salmon project has been a wonderful experience and one that we would recommend to all primary school classes to take part in.

Salmon in the Classroom

Once again, the coming of March highlights our Salmon in the Classroom project where school-children from across Perth & Kinross are given the responsibility of looking after salmon eggs in their classrooms.

It’s great news once again for the ‘alevins’, as the newly-hatched salmon are called, as over 95% have successfully hatched this year.  Under the supervision of the Tay Salmon Fisheries Board the salmon will soon be released into burns where they will be monitored over the coming months.

Young Salmon

There are roughly 12 schools involved in this project each year, each of whom are asked to keep a diary of their project which is then entered into a competition with a £200 prize. Last year’s prize was split between Moncrieffe and Kirkmichael Primary Schools as it was declared a draw.

The winning school will be the one which produces a diary with lots of content and ideas as well as general facts about what they have learned about the Salmon lifecycle. The schools in the past have submitted models of salmon, poems and songs as part of their entry.

Among the schools involved this year are Stanley, St Madoes, and Rattray Primary Schools. Is your school involved?

You can find out more about this project in last year’s story here and more about the many conservation projects which the Tay Salmon Fisheries Board carry out here

www.pkc.gov.uk/article/2551/Biodiversity-Projects (ongoing Greenspace Rangers projects)

The Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board is the statutory body empowered to protect and improve the salmon fisheries in the Tay district.  http://www.tdsfb.org/index.html

The Tay Foundation is a Charitable Trust helping the River Tay and its tributaries, fish and environment. www.tayfoundation.org/