Something’s fishy at the Gagetown base – and that’s a good thing!

Article / August 8, 2017 / Project number: 17-0204

By Meagan Betts, Environmental Services Branch, 5th Canadian Division Support Group

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Oromocto, New Brunswick — On June 6th, 2017 as part of Canadian Environmental Week activities, over 300 students were invited to 5th Canadian Division Support Base (5 CDSB) Gagetown to release salmon fry into Lindsay Brook.

Since 2008, thousands of students have visited the base to participate in the Fish Friends Field Day, a program started by the Atlantic Salmon Federation, administered by the New Brunswick Salmon Council and organized by Andy Smith, Aquatic Biologist, Environmental Services Branch (ESB), 5th Canadian Division Support Group (5 CDSG).

“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with our partners on the Fish Friends program and it is something that I look forward to every year. Planning a field day and coordinating over 300 schoolchildren can be challenging but well worth the effort! The students’ enthusiasm for the program and their appreciation is very rewarding,” said Mr. Smith.

This year marked the 10th anniversary of the Fish Friends Field Day at the base, an event dedicated to teaching elementary school students about salmon ecology and the importance of healthy aquatic ecosystems, while fostering environmental stewardship through interactive and educational activities.

To celebrate this milestone, the Honourable Lieutenant Governor Jocelyn Roy Vienneau, 5 CDSG Commander Colonel Keith Osmond, Nathan Wilbur of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Peter Cronin of the New Brunswick Salmon Council, Robin Hanson of the Oromocto River Watershed Association, and 5 CDSB Deputy Commander Lieutenant Colonel Bryon Conway made appearances at the event to deliver speeches full of encouragement and praise for the students, teachers and participants who have and continue to make the program possible each year.

In March, Atlantic salmon eggs from Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Mactaquac Biodiversity Facility were delivered to eight local schools (Cambridge Narrows Community School, Lincoln Elementary Community School, École Communautaire Arc-en-Ciel, Assiniboine Avenue Elementary, Gesner Street Elementary, Sunbury West Community School, Geary Community School, and Hubbard Avenue Elementary).

Over a 10-week period, students learned about salmon as they watched them grow from eggs into alevin and then develop into fry. After participating in the program for three years, Dave Patriquin, a grade 3 teacher from Sunbury West School, said he has seen significant improvement in the classes’ ability to care for the fish due to Mr. Smith`s expertise.

The salmon release, run by Krista DeBouver and Brittany Harvey from New Brunswick Department of Energy and Natural Resources Development, Dr. Sarah Tuziak from Fisheries and Oceans and Bruce Lavers from ESB, was only one of several activities planned for the students.

To educate the students on fish ecology and the various species inhabiting Lindsay Brook, Mark Gautreau and Ben Wallace from the Canadian Rivers Institute ran a station with live fish caught from the brook. Deanna McCullum, Laura West and Ian Lodge from ESB ran a station about aquatic wildlife in New Brunswick with live salamanders, frogs, tadpoles and shells from wood turtles found locally around the base.

The students learned about wetlands, waterfowl, and the environmental threats they face in a game led by Samantha Brewster from Ducks Unlimited and Meagan Betts from ESB. The last activity was Pollution Prevention, prepared and run by Tanya Malloy and Abigail Pavao, also from ESB.

Grade 4 student Lochlynn Sangster said her take-home message from the day was that, “We need to take way more care of the earth than we think we should.” Wendy Peters, a teacher at Gary Elementary Community School, explained that the day teaches students about endangered species, taking care of the environment and about caring for something other than themselves.

“There is no better way to address environmental concerns and generate awareness of them than by engaging the next generation, the leaders of tomorrow, in a hands-on activity like the Fish Friends Field Day,” said Col Osmond.

 “Base Gagetown is proud to support the program as we remain acutely aware of the impact military training has on our 1,100 square kilometres of training area and endeavour to be a responsible steward of the environment by investing in corrective actions to remediate damage to the land, by ensuring new infrastructure is built to meet today’s energy efficiency standards and by promoting and enforcing environmental compliance,” he continued. “These measures will help ensure the sustainability of our training area for many years to come.”

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