Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Life Aquatic 2011 - Youth Fisheries Academy at the Beach with Squaxin Island Tribe

This summer has been full of so many wonderful camps with countless memorable moments; each event was unique due to the combination of campers and locations. Our first camp took place at Priest Point Park in Olympia and demonstrated the success that we would continue to see in future camps. We had 17 campers between the ages of 10 and 15 who registered for this free event through Olympia Arts, Parks & Recreation (one of our many partners). Most campers did not know each other, so the team-building activities at the beginning of the day were especially important for developing interpersonal skills. Campers were then split by age into four groups and spent about 50 minutes at each of our learning stations. We had a great group of kids with many different interests. Everyone seemed enthusiastic to be there and participated fully in the camp. I was a bit nervous going into this first camp of the season, but once we began interacting with the campers it became much more natural and was a lot of fun.

Collecting fish from seine net
This camp featured a unique opportunity because of the easy beach access. Scott Steltzner, fisheries biologist for the Squaxin Island Tribe, led a beach seining activity that was very popular with the campers. The seine was 10 feet deep and 120 feet long with weights on the bottom and buoys on top to keep it upright in the water. One end of the net was secured on shore while the other end was pulled around by a boat, encircling fish in the net. Then the campers and staff demonstrated a great team effort by pulling both ends of the net up on shore. The fish were then removed from the net and placed into buckets of water for observation. We caught loads of fish and several species, including juvenile Chinook salmon, staghorn sculpin, starry flounder, and surf smelt. It was great to see some campers apply what they had learned in the species identification module to these live samples. Students had the opportunity to weigh, measure and record data on the fish we caught. They loved being able to hold and examine the fish and it was great for them see how much life there is in just a very small area of Puget Sound.

Observing fish catch
In an effort to measure our impact and improve future camps, we had each camper fill out an assessment form to rate our performance (enjoyment level and knowledge gained). We received fantastic reviews and it was awesome to hear the kids telling their parents all of their new fisheries knowledge as they were picked up from the camp. And I hope they were aware of how much WE enjoyed teaching them and how much they taught us in return. We couldn’t have asked for a better start to our summer camps and eagerly anticipated the camps to come.

- Claire Wood, STEP Fisheries Technician