During mid – May of this year (2006) the Technical Working Group in partnership with the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and the District of Vanderhoof began a pilot conservation fish culture program. The plan was to capture mature and ready to spawn adults and spawn them in a pilot conservation hatchery facility. The efforts were very successful, and after 10 days of set-line and angling effort, the team along with volunteers from Triton Environmental Ltd., were able to capture approximately 33 white sturgeon within the Vanderhoof area. About one third of these fish were mature spawners. Two large females (220 and 240 lbs) and 4 males (~100 lbs each) were collected and transported to Prince George for spawning. All remaining mature males were radio tagged to help determine the precise timing of spawning as part of the spring spawning studies program also being undertaken this year.
Personnel from the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC (FFSBC) began the spawning process over the May long weekend. The eggs from the 2 females were separately fertilized with the milt from the 4 males in order to provide the greatest genetic diversity given the number of fish caught for the program. The eggs, larvae and juveniles will be reared as two separate family groups in Vanderhoof until approximately August-October of this year after which up to 5000 20-25 g. juveniles will be released back to the Nechako. These juveniles represent the beginning of the future for the highly endangered Nechako Stock. Each juvenile will be marked prior to release to aid identification if they are captured again.
After spawning, the adults were released back to the Nechako River. On Thursday, May 25th, a public event was held to watch the last female sturgeon be returned to the river. Over 400 people attended the event, and everyone got to see this 80 years old and 240 lb fish up close! She was a magnificent sight to see, and the crowd cheered when she was finally returned to her home. Pictures from this significant event are shown below.
The Recovery Initiative is planning a big release event in the late summer or early fall for the juvenile sturgeon that are being reared in Vanderhoof. Please stay tuned for more information!
Special thanks to staff from Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and the District of Vanderhoof for their invaluable contributions in making this critical conservation initiative a reality under very short timelines. Funding for this project was provided by the Ministry of Environment, Alcan, the Freshwater Fisheries Society and the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council.
The crowd gathers!
Kids waiting in line to get a good look.
Being filmed by PG TV.
There's a tail!
One last look. (photo credit: Allan Wishart - Omineca Express)
Freshwater Fisheries Society staff extracting eggs from one of the 2 female sturgeon captured in May 2006. VIEW VIDEO!
The last captured female sturgeon being released back into the Nechako River by NWSRI members and Freshwater Fisheries Society staff. VIEW VIDEO!