The Stream to Sea program, delivered in the North Okanagan by the Kingfisher Interpretive Centre near Enderby, has received a one-year extension. (photo submitted)

Pressure saves salmon program

Fisheries and Oceans Canada announces late Friday Stream to Sea program will continue

A program that links local school children with the world around them, in danger of being cut by the federal government, has received an 11th-hour reprieve.

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.

Word came Friday night, however, that Fisheries has decided to renew the program for another year.

“Thanks to teachers, parents, students and community groups for raising concerns to maintain the Stream to Sea program delivered in our area by Kingfisher Interpretive Center,” said Kim Fulton, a retired teacher and program supporter.

“This program has helped citizens to develop an environmental stewardship ethic all over B.C. for the last 35 years. Public pressure on government reflects the profound effect raising salmonids in the classroom has had on citizens of B.C. over the years.”

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, wanted the program restored.

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

Fisheries and Oceans Canada said 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.”

Said Fulton: “I hope not too much money is spent ‘naval gazing’ and tinkering trying to improve a program that is already exemplary.”

Education support contracts cost about $400,000 per year, which is about 0.2 per cent of Fisheries’ annual budget.