The Kingfisher Interpretive Centre teaches local students about the environment by raising salmon. (photo submitted)

Salmon program at risk

A program that links local school children with the world around them is facing uncertainty.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada recently told the Kingfisher Interpretive Centre, east of Enderby, that the contract for Stream to Sea would not be renewed as part of a national decision.

“In my view, after 35-plus years involved in these exemplary programs this is very short sighted and in fact ridiculous to cut them,” said Kim Fulton, a retired teacher and program supporter.

With $30,000 in funding, the Kingfisher Interpretive Centre provides schools with educational support, in-class aquariums and chillers, technical support, fish food, and field experiences for children when they release the salmon fry back into the natural system.

About 3,000 students a year from Cherryville to Revelstoke are involved, with 52 salmon incubators in schools.

“It gives kids and teachers a live link to the natural world. Raising salmon is a vehicle to learn about stewardship, the environment and First Peoples,” said Neil Brookes, Kingfisher director.

Mel Arnold, North Okanagan-Shuswap MP, wants the program restored.

“There are biologists working in the field who got their first glimpse of salmon through the program,” said Arnold.

Brookes has been speaking with Fisheries and Oceans officials and he believes the agency is facing pressure nationally.

“Things are changing really fast with this. I’m feeling somewhat optimistic,” he said.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it has heard concerns about changes to the salmonid enhancement program.

“We will work with communities to identify opportunities for collaboration to ensure that this important work is not lost and is continued and strengthened for the years ahead,” said Athina Vazeos, communications advisor.

“The educational and technical support contracts for this year will go ahead as planned. The department will work with its partners over the next year to look at new ways to deliver these programs in the future.”