Kids and Fish: Teachable Moments

Downeast Salmon Federation (DSF) has a brand new, state of the art, mobile fish smokehouse. Brett Ciccotelli, DSF’s “Alewife Ambassador”, is taking the smoker on the road, demonstrating production of smoked alewives, a Downeast delicacy, and talking about the role of alewives in river and coastal ecosystems. This work is part of a broader campaign to ensure that kids – and adults – in eastern Maine have the opportunity to learn about fisheries at every stage of their educational journeys. Last fall Downeast Fisheries Partnership (DFP) held a workshop, “Taking Fisheries to School”, that helped to kick start collaborative, fisheries-related educational programming. A report describing the workshop is now available. One result of the DFP workshop is that DSF and the Maine Seacoast Mission are working together to engage kids in the  Mission’s EdGE program in “fishy” activities.

IMG_0343Brett brought students from the Rose Gaffney Elementary School in Machias along with two counselors from EdGE Program to the Pokey Dam fishway on the East Machias River. The students explored the river below the dam, along the lakeshore, and used one of DSF’s new underwater cameras to check on migrating fish. They also explored the alewife migration at Meddybemps Stream using another underwater camera; according to Brett, “Looking at the camera’s feed we got to see lots of fish swimming around below the surface.”  At the East Machias Aquatic Research Center, the students cleaned and scaled fresh alewives, so they could smoke their own fish in the mobile smoker.

On another day, it was the Cherryfield EdGE program students’ turn to EdGEPokeyexplore with Brett. They drove through the blueberry barrens to the Bog Brook Flowage on the Narraguagus. Students launched kayaks on the upstream side of a dam and small fishway. Brett noted, “We got to see a few large schools of young of the year alewives heading downstream before we headed out into the flowage’s stumpy, shallow maze.” After their kayaking adventure, back at EdGE in Cherryfield they walked down to the tidal portion of the Narraguagus and Brett helped students to draw a link between the upper and lower reaches of the river.  As with the first group of students, “no trip is complete without a bloater feast!” Brett said, “which we used to accompany a conversation about the importance of alewives to the natural and human environment as ‘the fish that feeds all.’”

Programs like these are vital for engaging students in the restoration of local aquatic habitat and associated fisheries and important in helping students become effective stewards of the fish and fisheries so important to Downeast coastal communities.

EdGEBloaterfeast

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