Two students attending local post-secondary institutions say they will use their recent bursary awards to help protect local salmon stocks.
Rebecca Golat, who attends Camosun College, and Sheldon Vos, who attends the University of Victoria, were among the recipients of the Stewardship Bursary Program awarded annually by the Pacific Salmon Foundation.
“It’s important that young people get the support they need for a well-rounded educational experience, which is where our Stewardship Community Bursary program comes in,” said Dr. Brian Riddell, president and CEO of the Pacific Salmon Foundation.
The program provides cash awards to post-secondary students currently enrolled in their second year or later of a program that deals with salmon conservation or aquatic stewardship. Applicants must demonstrate volunteer experience in environmental stewardship.
Golat, who is enrolled in Camosun’s environmental technology program, gained her experience, while volunteering with the Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society.
“I helped with everything from broodstock harvest to releasing a few hundred thousand salmon fry in the spring,” she said.
During broodstock harvesting, she helps collect hundreds of spawning salmon by jumping into the cold water of the Sooke River with a wetsuit to hold up a seine net to capture the fish. They then arrive at Jack Brooks Hatchery in Sooke where their eggs are fertilized.
“Then they are carefully grown from eggs into fry over a couple of months, which is when they are released back to the Sooke River,” she said. “This whole process gives the salmon a better chance at returning years to come. I enjoying doing this type of hands-on work and I know we are making a difference in the salmon populations. Our work is rewarded by the salmon returning four years later to start the whole process again.”
Golat’s passion in pacific salmon stems from her course work through the environmental technology, which she describes as a science “sampler pack” because courses range from environmental studies, biology, chemistry, computing, English, geology, geography and math.
“In about every biology course I have taken, we have discussed the impact of salmon on this coast and the value of these fish. But the populations are declining and this affects everything from resident orca whales to humans and the fishing industry. It is an important topic, and if action isn’t taken immediately, irreversible damage will be done.”
Vos, who is currently working towards a bachelor of science degree in geography with a concentration in geomatics, is a longtime volunteer with the Central West Coast Forest Society (CWFS). In this role, he has worked on restoring salmon habitat in the Barclay and Clayoquot Sound areas, where old logging practices destroyed much of the small rivers and creeks in the area. CWFS, in turn, clears out the large debris left by logging and then rebuilds the riparian areas around the stream to create a healthy ecosystem for salmon to return to and spawn, said Vos, a mature student who recently returned to school.
“Another big part of CWFS’ recent work has been replacing old culverts from under the highways in the area. Many of these old culverts create a fish barrier blocking salmon’s migratory paths. By replacing these culverts with up-to-date culverts, salmon are free to swim farther upstream to their native spawning areas.”
If Golat’s passion for salmon has a scholastic dimension, Vos’ is perhaps more personal, but no less valid.
“Growing up on Vancouver Island, salmon have been a big part of my life since I was young,” he said. “Sport fishing is something that I did with my family when I was young and something that I still enjoy. I look forward to working with organizations such as PSF and CWSF to ensure salmon continue to return in healthy numbers so that I can enjoy fishing with my own family in years to come.”