NORTH ISLAND GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Jeannine McCormack (right) works as the Education Co-ordinator for the Stream to Sea Program on the North Island.

School Salmon Program Saved

“Most years we have classes from every school on the North Island participate.”

A 30 year old hands-on enhancement program that teaches the lifecycle of salmon to school children has been saved.

NDP MP Rachel Blaney says the federal government has reversed its decision to defund the Salmonoid Enhancement Program, also known as the Stream to Sea Program.

Blaney is back in her home riding of North-Island Powell River as the 42nd parliamentary session has wrapped up, and in a media teleconference, said she is impressed with the work people have done to save the program.

“It was a slap in the face because of so many dedicated non-profits who loved the program,” said Blaney.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) actually withdrew funding for the program at the beginning of June.

“It was devastating, not just because I was losing my job, but because this program is close to my heart,” said Jeannine McCormack who is the Education Co-ordinator for the Northern Vancouver Island Salmonoid Enhancement Association. “Most years we have classes from every school on the North Island participate – hundreds of kids.”

The DFO announced it would defund the program after conducting a major review of its budget and would be cutting the program as it didn’t align with its core mandate.

However, Blaney said the federal government has changed its mind, in part because of the large amount of concern raised from supporters of the program. “Boy, did people share their massive concern and agreement with that change,” added Blaney.

McCormack said the program is important because it’s free for teachers. “For them to be able to have those kinds of opportunities, that’s huge because schools don’t have the kind of funding to be able to do that kind of stuff.”

She added the students “are learning about their local environment, getting hands on experience, and they are getting their feet wet in the creek.”

McCormack is not sure what exactly led DFO to reverse its decision. However, upon learning of the funding cuts, she immediately notified the participating teachers in hopes they would write letters to DFO in support of the program.

“It’s good news that it’s back and we are really looking forward to next year and continuing on,” said McCormack. “Salmon are everything here — if you take care of salmon, you take care of everything else.”

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