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School Children Help With Salmon Stocking Program

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Children from Chester Elementary School in Chester MA assist in the stocking of salmon fry in the Westfield River

By Paul Tuthill

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-966836.mp3

Chester. MA – The top environmental official in Massachusetts visited a small Western Massachusetts elementary school Tuesday to highlight a 20 year old program to bring Atlantic salmon back to the Connecticut River watershed. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

The Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Richard Sullivan spoke with third and fourth graders at the Chester Elementary School about environmental stewardship and the importance of wildlife and a healthy river..
The elementary school in Chester, one of the hill towns between the Connecticut River valley and the Berkshires, is one of roughly 30 schools that participate in the annual stocking effort to replenish Atlantic Salmon in the Connecticut River watershed.
The kids hiked down a short path through the woods in back of their school to the west bank of the Westfield River. There officials distributed tiny plastic cups, containing tiny Salmon fry, and the children put the young salmon , only about an inch or two long, in the river and watched as they swam away.
Chester school fourth grader Lilly Waters, who said as the lead up to today's field trip they'd been studying the life cycle of the Atlantic Salmon.
About 100 thousand salmon fry were to be released into the Westfield River behind the school in Chester Tuesday. The annual spring salmon stocking is coming to a close. One point five million salmon fry will have been released into the Connecticut river and its tributaries. Just five percent will make down river and into Long Island Sound. Atlantic salmon migrate to Greenland and back over the course of four years.
Just 100 or so adult Atlantic Salmon return annually to the Connecticut River according to Caleb Slater, who is the fish restoration project leader..
Slater says it is a miracle that any salmon return at all. 200 years ago, the native population of salmon in the Connecticut river became extinct because of all the man made dams constructed to accommodate industry, and now something is killing the Atlantic salmon in the ocean..
The federal government partners with Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire in the effort to bring the Atlantic salmon back to its native habitat in the Connecticut River. The commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, Mary Griffin, says they're in it for the long haul..
Griffin says the department depends on the participating schools, sportsmens clubs and other volunteers to help with the annual stocking effort..

Watch video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6-SCRvkeVQ