Something’s fishy! ‘Trout Lady’ pursues environmental grant

Something’s fishy! ‘Trout Lady’ pursues environmental grant
Photo by Sara Brittany Somerset

By Aaron Short

A Brooklyn trout lover is angling for some of the $1 million left over from a Newtown Creek pollution settlement to teach Greenpoint children how fish grow — and then how to catch them.

Lilith Genovesi, affectionately known by her colleagues as the Trout Lady, wants to put trout eggs in 55-gallon tanks in 13 schools within a half-mile of the creek, allowing students to raise the fish throughout the school year.

Genovesi’s group, Trout Unlimited, has replicated this aquaculture education program in 200 schools throughout the state.

“By raising trout, we’re engaging students in water-quality testing, the water cycle, chemistry and physics,” Genovesi explained. “We provide fish in the tanks and teachers design the curricula.”

Genovesi is a big fish in a small pond when it comes to all of the projects competing for the funds.

The Hudson River Foundation is responsible for doling out the $1 million set aside from the $10 million that the city must pay as a result of violating state pollution laws.

Dozens of groups have submitted for grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. The money will be allocated by the end of June.

Genovesi stands a good chance of getting one — the group has already funded her previous aquaculture projects.

“Not only do [school children] bond with a creature and let it go, they learn that clean water is necessary for all of life,” said Hudson River Foundation’s Lisa Garrison. “It makes children realize that clean water is essential for life — which is a first step towards making the water cleaner.”

Genovesi’s fish program already exists at PS 110 on Monitor Street — where 35 trout have hatched and grown to nearly three inches in length.

This month, students will bring the fish to Westchester County and release them into a reservoir.

The freshwater-breathing trout won’t make their way back to brackish Brooklyn, but once they’re set free they’ll be exposed to all kinds of human activity — namely fishermen.

Genovesi says many of her students get attached to the fish, which makes talking about the life cycle — and the trout’s inevitable end as someone’s dinner — a little awkward.

Ben Sargent, who founded the Brooklyn Fishing Derby, says that teaching about the fish’s entire lifecycle makes children — and adults — appreciate the health of Brooklyn waterways.

“I only teach kids catch-and-release techniques for fishing,” said Sargent.