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.
NWSCC UPDATE FOR FEBRUARY 2016 - The NWSCC currently has 9,285 juvenile fish in the facility weighing an overall average of 190 grams. The largest fish have reached 300 grams. Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and Carrier Sekani Tribal Council staff with volunteer help from SD91 high school and CNC students, PIT tagged, scute marked and sampled fish for polyploidy in November and December. Sixty-three of the smallest fish have yet to be tagged and marked. As of early January all of our young sturgeon (with the exception of one tank of 600) have reached the average target release weight of 150 g. The last group averages 100 grams and will reach the target size before release in spring. Currently we are catching up on small facility projects and organization that we are normally unable to complete in the spring-fall busy research and broodstock period. Last we have recently setup a small heating system on 4 combi tanks that will allow us to grow 20 of the fish to a larger size for radio tagging. The target size for these fish is 1 kg. The goal is to radio tag 15 fish that are approximately 200 grams and 15, 1000 gram sturgeon for tracking this spring.
In early October the MLA for Prince George-Valemount, Shirley Bond, visited the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre. MLA S. Bond was treated to a guided tour of the facility and learnt about the recovery efforts.
From left to right: District of Vanderhoof Councillor Brian Frenkel, Nechako White Sturgeon Community Working Group Chair Wayne Salewski, MLA for Prince George-Valemount Shirley Bond, and Mayor of Vanderhoof Gerry Thiessen, visit the Conservation Centre.
2015 Conservation Centre Updates
2015 is the second year of operations at the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Facility. The capture of adult male and female white sturgeon to be used as brood stock occurred in April and May 2015 and was conducted by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC.
The adult fish taken to the hatchery were spawned in two events: the last week of May and the first week of June. Two of the females taken to the hatchery are being held over the winter for future spawning within the next one to two years. As of September 2015 there are approximately 14,500 juvenile fish in the hatchery, which represents an estimated 140 kg of total biomass.
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?
The sturgeon produced this year will 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. This fish was released at the 4 May 2015 release event. Photo by NWSRI Technical working Group Chair and Facility Manager for the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, Cory Williamson.
In winter 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 on the 13th of May 2016. Details of the event are in the planning stages 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.
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.
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