Saco Salmon Restoration Alliance
The Saco Salmon Restoration Alliance maintains a strong focus on public and educational outreach. We strongly believe that the future of regional Atlantic salmon population recovery and restoration efforts begin with raising awareness to the plight of the salmon, and in particular, engaging future generations in those efforts.
In addition to providing hatchery tours and open house events, SSRA provides presentations to interested groups and organizations. SSRA also maintains two educational programs on the elementary school and college levels whereby young people receive training and real-life, hands-on experience with Atlantic salmon.
Fish Friends Program
Partnering with the US Fish & Wildlife Service and Atlantic Salmon Federation, SSRA has maintained a Fish Friends program with regional elementary schools. SSRA provides fertilized salmon eggs to 5th grade natural sciences classrooms. The eggs are incubated in aquariums with conditioned water.
While incubation is taking place, students learn about salmon biology, life cycles and migrations and monitor the eggs daily. Other topics of study and discussion are the various issues that have contributed to salmon population declines, and other challenges faced by conservationists in salmon restoration efforts.
When incubation is complete, the students witness the miracle of the hatching process. Students continue to monitor the alevin (hatchlings) daily as they develop to the fry stage.
Throughout the program, the aquarium's water temperature is adjusted to coincide with the SSRA hatchery which corresponds to the average temperatures of various tributaries in the Saco River watershed. As the alevin deplete the nutrients in their yolk sac, preparations for program completion are made. The students tour the SSRA hatchery, and are accompanied on a field trip to one of the Saco tributaries where they will release "their" salmon; bidding them farewell and good chance.
As of June 2019, this program is suspended because the Nashua hatchery suspended ALL egg production on August 1, 2019.
Given that the SSRA hatchery is located a short 1.4 miles from the University Of New England campus, we've developed an internship program with UNE's Marine Sciences Center. Students receive credit hours for training and hands-on experience at our hatchery. SSRA has also provided internships for students from the University Of Southern Maine.
Our internship program is all-encompassing. Students are introduced to and provided opportunities to experience each and every aspect of our operations, both in the field and in the hatchery. During the course of the internship, they'll learn about water quality testing and actively assist hatchery staff to ensure that water quality parameters remain in the proper ranges for juvenile Atlantic salmon. They will also participate in our egg planting program. Interns are also instructed in fish culture and play an active role of maintaining and rearing the salmon in the hatchery. The interns participate in our annual hatchery open house by helping with hatchery tours and providing a presentation of their learning and experience at SSRA. The internships conclude with the annual stocking of the fry throughout the Saco watershed, and hatchery shut-down.
Many interns are profoundly affected through their time with us and their interactions with the salmon, as evidenced by the fact that many of them return each season to volunteer with us as they continue with their education.
We very much appreciate all of the assistance and ongoing interest in our work to establish self-sustaining populations of Atlantics throughout the Saco River watershed.
Our fondest hope is that ongoing outreach and educational programs will inspire a new generation to continue the work of salmon recovery throughout the New England region.