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Salmon help kids and the Great Lakes

Besser program teaches kids about the fish, controls invasive species

News Photo by Julie Goldberg Besser Elementary School fifth-graders, from left to right, Oliver McConnell, Evan Beegen, Emma Jo Kruczynski, and Addison Spicer look at salmon in a fish tank in Allison Hartmeyer’s classroom.

ALPENA — Besser Elementary School fifth-graders are learning all about salmon.

Teacher Allison Hartmeyer’s classroom is participating in Salmon in the Classroom, a yearlong program in which teachers receive fertilized salmon eggs from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“We get about 150 eggs to start with,” Hartmeyer said. “We are raising them in the classroom, because they can handle an adapted environment.”

The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative and the Bay Watershed Education and Training Program helped Hartmeyer get the eggs, fish tank, and needed equipment. This is the third year Hartmeyer has had salmon in her classroom.

Students are learning about the salmon lifecycle throughout the school year. Fifth-grader Evan Beegen said he’s learned about the difference between a male and female salmon.

“They’re a cool fish that I could learn more about,” Beegen said. “I saw that they were eggs and when they continue to get out of their eggs, I saw their eyes.”

The salmon will be released into the Thunder Bay River at Rotary Island in May. Hartmeyer said the salmon will then remember where they were born and won’t remember the fish tank they will spend all school year in.

Salmon are not native to the Great Lakes. They’re native to the north Pacific Ocean, Hartmeyer said, but will be released into the river to control the alewife.

“We’re hoping with Salmon in the Classroom, with teachers all over Michigan participating, that every little fish will be helped if you release salmon in the Great Lakes,” Hartmeyer said. “They’re helping the Great Lakes because they are keeping that small fish population balanced.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that alewives are not considered an invasive species.

Julie Goldberg can be reached at 989-358-5688 or jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jkgoldberg12.

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