Thursday, October 6, 2011

Science: Feather River Fish Hatchery

Today my daughter's fourth grade class went on a field trip to the Feather River Fish Hatchery in Oroville, Ca.  I tagged along to learn a little bit of ecology on fish.

The Feather River Fish Hatchery's main goal is to ensure the continuation of the spring and fall run of Chinook salmon and Steelhead trout.  The hatchery protects the eggs produced from the natural hazards that the fish eggs could encounter in the wild.

The first stop on the tour is the Barrier Dam, Fish Ladder, and Fish Ladder Windows.  The kids loved seeing full sized salmon up close.  My daughter's teacher had previously taught them how to tell the males from the females.  The males have the extended lower jaw.  Here the visitors can get a really close and and normally unseen view of what spawning salmon see each year.  The fish ladder works by partitioning off sections of the man-made canal and periodically flooding the canals so that the salmon can swim over the wall to the next section.

Next stop are the holding tanks.  The mechanical sweeper moves the salmon into the spawning building so that the "circle of life" can be conitnued...
In the spawning building the fish are placed in the tranquilizing tank which is water that is infused with carbon dioxide.  This slows the fish down by pushing oxygen out of the water and allows the workers to handle the fish more easily. 
Then the workers take the fish to the sorting section.  In the sorting section those salmon that are NOT ready to spawn are passed down to the holding tanks until they are mature.  Those that are ready to spawn are passed on to be prepared for artificial spawning.
During the prepping for the artificial spawn the male and female salmon are killed.  In nature the salmon die after spawning naturally.  The process here is much quicker.  The female salmon's body is slit open and she produces 2500 to 5000 eggs.  The eggs are deposited into containers and the male's "milt" is squeezed into the container and mixed into the eggs for fertilization.
The salmon killed during this process are donated to local indian tribes.
This was a fascinating field trip.  My daughter and I both enjoyed it.  The end of the day was for fun as the kids were allowed to feed the fish that were newly hatched at the facility.  Oh and by the way....
Keep Moving Foreward,
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