Shawnigan students have been doing their part recently to ensure the survival of another generation of coho salmon with their work in the School’s own Mark Hobson Hatchery.
After first catching mature fish for broodstock after they returned to spawn in Shawnigan Creek, students — and some adventurous staff members — had the opportunity to take eggs and milt (sperm) from the fish, beginning the process that will eventually lead to the release of young fish to begin the cycle once again.
This was the first time in three years that Shawnigan has had broodstock. Since 2019, the School has received eggs and milt from the Goldstream Fish Hatchery. When Shawnigan has acquired broodstock, it has typically come from the fish trap where Shawnigan Creek flows into Mill Bay, but things were done differently this year as students caught the fish themselves with a seine net at a different location on Shawnigan Creek in Cobble Hill. The last group to collect eggs and milt from broodstock was the current Grade 12 class, when they were in Grade 9.
More than 125 students in Grade 9 Science and Grade 11 and Grade 12 Environmental Science went through the process at the Mark Hobson Hatchery under the tutelage of Mrs. Laura Robson. With some extra broodstock available, the opportunity was offered to the Fly-Tying 360 (arts and activities) group, and some staff members, including Head of School Mr. Larry Lamont, Mr. Lamont’s Executive Assistant Mrs. Cheryl Miranda, and Deputy Head Mr. William Nicholas went for professional development.
The students harvested milt from the male broodstock and eggs from the females, then gently combined them to get the fertilization process going. The fertilized eggs were then placed in an incubator, where they will stay until they reach their eyed stage as Grade 11 students monitor everything in their environment from pH to water temperature. In February, when they become fry, they will be “ponded” in tanks inside the hatchery, where students will continue to care for them through daily checks and feeding until they are ready for release.
Everything done in the hatchery ties into the science curriculum, teaching things like cell division, sexual reproduction and stewardship. The Mark Hobson Hatchery has been part of Shawnigan Lake School since 1980, and while many schools incorporate the salmon fishery into their programs, Shawnigan is the only school in BC with its own hatchery on campus.
The hatchery is named for Mark Hobson ’70 (Groves’), a Shawnigan alum who returned to the School to teach science and run the outdoors program. Mr. Hobson spent nine years teaching at the School and now paints and runs an art gallery in Tofino. More information about his artwork can be found at markhobson.com.
We acknowledge with respect the Coast Salish Peoples on whose traditional lands and waterways we live, learn and play. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in this beautiful region, and we aspire to healthy and respectful relationships with those who have lived on and cared for these lands for millennia.
Shawnigan Lake School is an independent co-educational boarding school for ages 13 –18 on Canada’s beautiful West Coast. Our diverse, interdisciplinary and innovative programming helps shape the next generation of global leaders.