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Michigan Students Help Restore Salmon Stocks

US - In dozens of Michigan classrooms, elementary, middle and high school students are helping the state Department of Natural Resources restore the salmon population by hatching and raising fish, then reintroducing them into the wild.

South Haven (Mich.) High School biology teacher Kevin Powell pours salmon eggs. (Photo: Luke Gronneberg)

The South Haven Steelheaders are one such group. One recent day, they clustered around South Haven High School biology teacher Kevin Powell as he carefully put 200 chinook salmon eggs into a 55-gallon aquarium.

With care and luck, most of the eggs will hatch in about a month, emerging as tiny fish with yolk sacs attached under their chins.

In April, those that are large enough will go into a net pen with 45,000 other salmon kept by the Steelheaders in the Black River. There, experts hope they will become imprinted on the river.

As silvery 6- to 7-inch smolts, they will be released to swim into Lake Michigan, returning as adults of up to 20 pounds to spawn in the Black River before dying.

The DNR's Salmon in the Schools program started about 10 years ago and operates in about 100 classrooms in 80 schools.