The Michigan Sea Grant is producing videos to teach students and anglers about salmon in the Great Lakes.
The idea began as a way to keep up with the growing popularity of Michigan’s Salmon in the Classroom program, which allows students to raise salmon in their schools and eventually release them in a local watershed.
The program is a great opportunity for young people to learn about the life cycles of fish, said Dan O’Keefe, the southwest district educator for Michigan Sea Grant.
“It’s amazing what these classrooms have accomplished,” O’Keefe said. “But when these groups were looking for additional resources or speakers to come talk to them, it was just impossible to make it to every school.
“The videos became a way to reach everyone, and to tell the story of how salmon eventually reach the Great Lakes,” he said.
O’Keefe understands a youthful fascination with fish — he has been fishing in Michigan since he was three years old.
“I loved how this program opened up questions as to how these fish were introduced — Chinook salmon, which the classrooms use, aren’t native to the Great Lakes,” O’Keefe explained. “So there’s a chance to teach about how the environment changed, how salmon are stocked. And we can compare and contrast captive rearing and natural reproduction.”
O’Keefe said he hopes to make at least four or five more videos about salmon life cycles, through both artificial and natural reproduction. But he’s also open to creating more videos about other species in the Lakes.
“These videos may open doors to educate about other fish, both native and invasive species, like the zebra mussel or the spiny water flea,” he said. “The first video focused on raising young salmon in classrooms, but as you dig deeper into the story, it ties in with other programs and groups of people.”
One group includes Great Lakes anglers, and O’Keefe also discussed the Michigan Sea Grant’s early plans for a pilot Salmon Ambassador program.
“There’s been this mass initiative to mark stocked fish with fin clips,” O’Keefe said. “Next year we hope to build a volunteer base of fishermen that could provide data on the types of fish they’re catching.
“By next year all Chinook salmon in Lake Huron and Lake Michigan will be marked,” he added. “Fishermen will be able to tell if they’re catching a stock fish or a wild fish, and by giving us that data we can know where these fish are being caught and where they may be spawning.”