Dozens of elementary classes release fish into the Columbia at the Salmon Summit

KENNEWICK, Wash. — After months of raising fish in the classroom, dozens of elementary classes went to the Columbia river where they released their salmon.

The Benton Conservation District partnered with Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL) to show 4th and 5th grade students in the area how fish are tagged.

Students saw small salmon go under anesthesia, and then receive a pit tag. The pit tag is then registered in a data base, along with the salmon’s length.

After the salmon wakes up, students then got to name their salmon, and release the fish into the Columbia River. As their salmon travels down the Columbia River and towards the Pacific Ocean, students can track the salmon as it passes through antennas and the hydropower system.

“The students have been raising these fish since January, so they’re getting kind of attached!” said Rachel Little, a Fish Biologist with Benton Conservation District. “They really like to be able to see those tagged sections downstream.”

While the Salmon Summit is typically an in-person event, the pandemic changed that. Today’s event saw students locally, and an additional 3,000 students statewide thanks to PNNL’s live stream portal.

The service allowed students to see the event as far away as Bremerton.

When asked, students from Mrs. Gant’s 4th grade class said they were most excited to go back home and show their parents where their fish had traveled along the Columbia River.