Dwelling in deep pools of the Nechako River is a survivor from the age of the dinosaurs - the Nechako white sturgeon. This mysterious creature is the largest freshwater fish in Canada, and has existed relatively unchanged for millions of years – surviving volcanic eruptions, ice ages and climatic upheavals. But the Nechako white sturgeon is now swimming in a current of change that is taking it to the very brink of extinction. It is ranked as Critically Imperiled by the British Columbia Conservation Data Centre and is an Endangered Species according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).
In the last 50 years, the Nechako white sturgeon population has dropped from what some scientists believe was a minimum of 5000 fish to less than 300. And the vast majority of those fish are more than 40 years old. The lack of younger fish means that sturgeon are either not reproducing successfully or that the young are not surviving to adulthood. As sturgeon do not begin spawning until they are 20 to 40 years old, the lack of young sturgeon in the Nechako means that an entire generation is already missing.
But it is not too late! With your help, and the help of other concerned citizens, organizations and governments, the Nechako white sturgeon can be saved.
Staff at the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Conservation Centre captured broodstock from 24 April to 20 May 2014, logging 25 days on the river. Almost 60% of sturgeon captured were mature; crews captured 10 immature male sturgeon, 25 mature males, and 6 mature females. Two of the females taken to the hatchery are being held over the winter for future spawning within the next one to two years. Click this link to watch a CKPG TV new story featuring some of the NWSRI members in action:
Spawning of the hatchery sturgeon occurred between the 26 to 30 May, 2014. A number of volunteers came to the facility to help with the spawn and mix the eggs with the milt; this was definitely a community effort!
Eggs hatched between the 6 to 12 June and the first feeding was between 21 to 23 June, 2014. The first 10 days of feeding were going very well, but unfortunately there were some serious issues after that point resulting in a large die-off of baby sturgeon. Three main events caused the die-off of the hatchery sturgeon: (1) high river water temperatures; (2) issue with feeding; and, (3) system waste feed/ learning how to operate the new system. How to deal with these issues has been rectified and we are confident that next year our survival rate will be a lot higher.
As an anti-predation strategy sturgeon larvae like to hide and the blue bio-balls are provided for them to hide within. Hiding in the bio-balls resembles hiding within the interstitial spaces between rocks in the river. Can you see the sturgeon larvae in this picture?
As of January 2015 there were approximately 1,260 hatchery produced juvenile fish remaining and those fish are doing very well and have good growth rates. The sturgeon produced this year remain at the facility over the winter to allow them to grow larger prior to their release. Our hope is that these fish will be past the stage of recruitment failure identified by our Technical Working Group and therefore a greater number will survive to breeding age.
Senior Fish Culturist, Mike Manky, holds one of the largest hatchery produced juvenile fish weighing in at 400 grams on the 13 January 2015. The average weight of the remaining fish is about 225 grams. Photo by NWSRI Technical working Group Chair and Facility Manager for the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, Cory Williamson.
Prior to release into the Nechako River during the spring of 2015 these fish will be implanted with PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tags and have a scute marked. Radio-tags will be placed in fish that are large enough to hold the tag. The Juvenile sturgeon will be released in a public event that will occur sometime between the 5 and 12 May 2015. Details of the event are pending so please keep an eye on our Events page.
As always, the NWSRI remains committed to identifying, maintaining and potentially restoring critical sturgeon habitat. Our ultimate goal is to find the more permanent solutions required to achieve a self-sustaining sturgeon population. In addition to our ongoing biological research and monitoring projects we are conducting or supporting a number of projects that examine the geomorphology of the Nechako River. Please refer to our reports and/or recent projects pages for further information on our projects.
Would you like to attend the release of the juvenile sturgeon in May 2015? For details please check our Events page!
To view the CKPG newstory on the Recovery Facility, click this link: http://ckpg.com/vanderhoof-hatchery-made-permanent-video
The Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy for White Sturgeon in Canada has been released. Visit our Recovery Plan page to download the strategy.
Every Sturgeon Counts! Learn about our Emergency Sturgeon Live Release Boat Kit Program.
Download our most recent annual report.
For more information on any of our programs please visit the individual web page tab.
CONGRATULATIONS!! On January 31st 2008, at the regional Premier's Awards in Prince George, the NWSRI won a Silver Award in recognition of our our teamwork and success in promoting white sturgeon stewardship and work towards recovery of the population.
Copyright © 2005-2015 Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative. All Rights Reserved.
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