Dwelling in the waters of Nechako River watershed is a survivor from the age of the dinosaurs – White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus). This magnificent animal is the largest freshwater fish in Canada, and has existed relatively unchanged for millions of years. It is likely that White Sturgeon arrived to the Nechako watershed from the Upper Columbia River system when the two were connected over 10,000 years ago after the last ice-age. Since that time, the White Sturgeon in the Nechako River appear to have remained almost exclusively within its waters, using the deep waters of the river and lakes for winter refuge and, in late spring, congregating to spawn in the river. Research to date indicates the Upper Fraser Designation Unit (DU) of White Sturgeon (Upper Fraser, Middle Fraser and Nechako River populations) is genetically distinct from other populations and within that DU, the Nechako River White Sturgeon is a unique group.
It is unknown how many adult sturgeon historically inhabited the Nechako watershed. Dakelh Elders share that for centuries their people caught White Sturgeon, and a record from the Hudson Bay Company from 1818 reports 21 sturgeon 2.2-3.6m in length being caught in Stuart Lake. The most recent estimates suggest there are 630 adult sturgeon and very few naturally-spawned young sturgeon in the Nechako River. Since sturgeon do not begin spawning until 20 to 40 years of age, the lack of young sturgeon means that an entire generation is missing. If nothing changes, there may be too few mature animals to sustain the population and Nechako White Sturgeon could become extirpated. This has led to Nechako White Sturgeon being listed as Critically Imperiled by the British Columbia Conservation Data Centre, as Endangered according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), and as an Endangered Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).
 Carruthers et. al. in preparation. 2012 estimate.
Explore this website to learn all about Nechako White Sturgeon and the projects, programs, and educational resources of the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative.
The Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative (NWSRI) was formed in 2000 with the goal of returning the Nechako White Sturgeon to a self-sustaining population. The NWSRI has a Recovery Plan that guides projects and further research.
The NWSRI has many recovery projects underway that involve hands-on stream-level work, to multi-year research projects. You can read about some of the most recent projects by downloading the newly released 2016-2017 NWSRI Annual Report. Also have a look at the April 13, 2018 article from the Omineca Express regarding Nechako White Sturgeon.
The NWSRI 2018 Juvenile Sturgeon Release Event is happening on May 4, 2018! Students from throughout the watershed will participate in releasing a one-year old sturgeon into the Nechako River. These fish were spawned in 2016 and raised at the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre for the past year.
Not only do students release a sturgeon, classes will circulate through a series of educational booths on topics including salmon biology and river ecology, research projects on the Nechako River, sturgeon biology and life cycle, and the watershed. They end their day with a hot dog lunch and a tour of the hatchery. A great day for learning and for sturgeon recovery!
Due to popular request, we have printed more copies of the Nature Guide and Educational Resource and will be distributing them to schools in April. If you haven't seen a copy of the Nature Guide at your school, please check with your librarian or school Principal. Contact the NWSRI Coordinator for more information.
In October 2017, the NWSRI with funding from the Habitat Stewardship Program and Rio Tinto, has partnered with School District 91 and the communities of Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake and Fort St. James to undertake a public education and outreach project for the endangered Nechako white sturgeon. School children painted sturgeon and salmon images at storm drains that will help remind citizens that storm drains lead to fish habitat. Putting hazardous materials, or even soap from washing your car, down storm drains can negatively impact aquatic systems and fish populations including the endangered Nechako white sturgeon. This project will continue in the spring of 2018.
The City of Prince George has resources and great videos about keeping pollutants out of storm drains and some great videos on their website. These are easy videos to follow, and great to show students.
We are in the planning phase of the next sturgeon release event, set for May 4, 2018. Be sure to check back on the status of your previously released sturgeon at the Where is My Fish page. If your fish hasn't been recaptured, you can search for some of the fish that have to see how far these fish have moved and how big they have grown!
Emergency Sturgeon Live Release Boat Kit Program is gearing up for another year of fishing. If you are a fisher family that is interested in participating in this program, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about this project.
Due to lower demand and reduced staff hours in winter, hatchery tours are by appointment only until April 7, 2018. Please call the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre at 250-567-6673 to book your tour (7 days a week as time permits).
Funding for these tour guide/intern positions has been generously provided by Rio Tinto through their Donations and Sponsorships Program, which contributes to community-building initiatives in their host communities. Funding is dedicated for a program to increase opportunities for those interested in career paths in the fields of fisheries, fish culture or teaching for people in the communities of the Nechako Watershed. The funding will provide tour guides for the 2018 summer, so make sure to come and see us again this year.
One way for you to be a part of the recovery process of Nechako white sturgeon is to support us through donations and/or picking up some great souvenirs! We have lapel pins, sturgeon stuffies, and t-shirts. Check with our tour guides for prices.
School Tours - If you would like to book a tour for your classroom, please call the NWSCC at 250-567-6673 and they will do their best to accomodate your class. Later this spring set tour times will be set and there will be greater opportunities for classes to get involved at the hatchery.
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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