By SARA MILLER
Kitsap News Group
Students from Discovery Alternative High School released 7,000 salmon fry into Beaver Creek April 13 to help repopulate local waterways and supply aquatic life for the future.
“Chief Seattle was credited with saying, ‘We borrow the future from our children,’” Jerry Polley said, “and that’s kind of the walk we’re trying to walk.”
Polley, a teacher at Discovery, started the Fish Club, as they call it. It all started with the Port Orchard Rotary undertaking the rebuilding of a hatchery in a formerly polluted stream. Discovery’s principal Patrick Oster, a Rotary member, remembered Polley’s background in salmon.
“He told me this might be something I’d be interested in and I said, ‘Of course, I’m super-interested,’” Polley said.
Now six years later, the project has become primarily student-led with the Rotary owning the permit, but the students at Discovery doing the labor and work.
It’s strictly volunteer, but Polley also incorporates the teaching into his classroom during the marine sciences curriculum.
The Fish Club gets the eggs from Minter Creek Fish Hatchery in Gig Harbor. They then incubate them and keep the eggs alive until they’ve absorbed their yolk sack and are ready to be released.
While they released 7,000 salmon into Beaver Creek in Manchester this year, in past years, they’ve released closer to 70,000.
“The availability of eggs has decreased by a factor of 90 percent,” Polley said.
“An outbreak of IHN, which is a viral disease, and Minter Creek salmon have tested positive for it.”
Infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus (IHN) has a high kill rate among salmon and trout, causing the price to screen eggs to increase drastically. Meanwhile, the availability plummets.
“Resources are really fragile. It all could go away in a heartbeat,” Polley said.
This is why he says the lessons and release of salmon is a valuable teaching tool.
“It’s a neat model of different organizations coming together for a common goal, for a common good in our community,” he said.
“It’s exciting to see kids and teenagers learn about an authentic reason to get involved in something not about themselves, but their community.”