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Salmon in Nome Public Schools

Yesterday a small group of Nome-Beltz high school students released a bucketful of young Coho salmon into an ice-free corner of Anvil Creek.

 It was a successful end to a year-long biology class project, and a piece of the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation’s larger salmon rehabilitation efforts in the region.

Mr. Brian Marvin’s bio class has been working on raising salmon in a school laboratory since September. “Really exciting for me when I found out I’d get the chance to do it,” he said.

Back in the fall students collected eggs from rivers. Then NSEDC fertilized the eggs before handing them back over said crew manager Kevin Knowlton.

“We’ll incubate them, and then right when they’re right to the eyed stage we gave them back to the school for them to continue the process.”

The eggs hatched during the winter, and by yesterday the inch-long Cohos were ready to begin a year of fresh-water maturation before they head to the ocean next spring to do most of their growing.

The eggs hatched in Mr. Marvin’s class were first incubated at NSEDC using a a misting technique they’re testing to bring local salmon stocks back up to peak levels.

Kevin Keith is a fisheries biologist working on that program, and explained, “NSEDC’s rehabilitation project at this point is mist incubation and eyed egg planting. We’re planting the egg before they hatch—the rest of their life cycle after that point is natural salmon life cycle. And that’s been seven or eight years we’ve been doing that.”

Mist incubation keeps eggs moist with light spray, instead of submersion. It cuts down on early-stage mortality, and so far it’s cost effective as a small-scale, localized  way to bump up regional stocks that have been depleted.

NSEDC has started seeing good returns on the early test cases, Keith said, “We’ve had quite a bit of success here with the Cohos in particular. This Anvil Creek and Dry Creek were really fished out when we started, and last summer there was a fair number of Cohos coming back, and we expect a lot more this summer as well. So it’s been kind of nice to get this run restarted.”

NSEDC sees its continuing partnership with Nome Public Schools as a way of building resource management in the region for the long-term. And Mr. Marvin’s salmon lab is scheduled to happen again next fall.