By Peter Jasinski
Sentinel & Enterprise
February 12, 2016
Current estimate are that 75 of the 80 fish eggs that were delivered to the club last month have hatched and, as far as everyone knows, those 75 fish are still alive.
Knowing for sure isn’t easy, though. Each hatchling is only about the size of a grain of rice right now, and they’re all hiding beneath the many pebbles at the bottom of their tank.
It’s the fifth year the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster has been raising baby fish until they’re big enough to be released in the wild, and, according to program coordinator Luci Arel, the enthusiasm hasn’t waned.
“They’re fascinated by it and very interested in learning the challenges these fish face in their environment,” she said.
Arel explained those challenges are mainly the obstacles preventing fish from swimming upstream to reproduce. When the program began in 2012, the club was raising indigenous salmon that have seen their population numbers drop in recent years because of man-made obstructions like hydro-electric turbines and dams.
Originally, the project started as a collaboration between the club and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to restore the salmon population, but has since shifted to just being a way of teaching children about how trout mature from being unhatched eggs.
“I think it’s nice to see how the fish are going to live. You can see how they grow and adapt,” said Christopher Sidelinger, one of the children involved with the program. “I don’t think many people usually go into rivers for hours just to watch fish, so it’s nice we can see them here.”
For the past few weeks, participants in the program have been observing the fish, feeding them, and making sure the tank’s water stays at a temperature similar to the trout’s natural habitat. In the next week they expect the fish to have grown to the point where they can rise up from the pebbles and swim in the tank’s open water.
By late May the fish are expected to have reached 2 inches in size, which is the point when they can be released into the wild.
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