Juvenile Sturgeon Release

By far the most popular outreach event is the Juvenile Sturgeon Release event. The objectives of the Juvenile Release program is to:

  • provide an opportunity for students to participate hands-on in the recovery of Nechako White Sturgeon.
  • have a public awareness opportunity.

The Juvenile Sturgeon Release Event is held at Riverside Park in Vanderhoof the first Friday in June each year. The NWSRI, along with Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, School District 91 and the District of Vanderhoof, host the event. Students come from schools around School District 91, including public, private, First Nation schools, and home-schoolers. Juvenile sturgeon that were spawned at the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre (NWSCC) are released at this event. 

What happens at the Event?

The event starts in the classroom in the weeks leading up to the event. Teachers are provided with preparatory materials to get students thinking about sturgeon biology, life cycle, and conservation. On the day of the event, students bus, drive and walk to Riverside Park. Here, as a class they name and release a sturgeon into the Nechako River, and in 2022 and again in 2023, each student releases a salmon fry, care of Spruce City Wildlife Association. Each sturgeon has a PIT (passive integrated transponder) tag that provides a unique identification number so that if the sturgeon is caught later during juvenile monitoring program, that sturgeon can be traced back to the student or class. The growth and movement measurements are then recorded and reported on the Where is My Fish database.

After students release their sturgeon they then proceed through a number of stations ranging from salmon biology, invertebrate ID, sturgeon life cycle, watershed and ecosystem interactions and sturgeon research. Students then enjoy lunch in the park. It is a full day of learning and awareness, not only for students, but for teachers, parents and any folks who walk by and have a look at what is going on in the park. 

History of the Juvenile Release Event

The first Save-Our-Sturgeon (SOS) event took place in October 2006 and was attended by 1,100 schoolchildren from School District 91 where they each released a hatchery reared 4 month old juvenile sturgeon into the Nechako River. This event took place again in 2007 and 2008 where between 900 - 1,100 juvenile sturgeon were released at each event.

From 2009 to 2013, the release event did not happen, due to the lack of a hatchery project during that time. However, the NWSRI continued to provide educational events for students to attend. In 2009, students gathered at the river to learn about sturgeon life cycle among other aspects of river ecology. In 2010 the NWSRI participated in River's Day. In 2011, three adult sturgeon were released into the river and a community wide educational day was held at Riverside Park with 300 people in attendance. In 2012, the NWSRI participated in River's Day celebrations.

In 2014, the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre opened it's doors as one of the most state-of-the-art hatchery facilities in North America. From past experience, and knowledge gain from the pilot hatchery program, the 2015 release event saw roughly 2,000 one-year old sturgeon released into the Nechako River.

In 2016 and 2017, over 9,000 and 12,000 fish were released in total respectively. In each of those years, over 600 students were involved in releasing upwards to 700 of the hatchery reared fish into the Nechako River at Riverside Park. 

In 2018 and 2019, 400 students released 400 juveniles into the river, with hatchery staff releasing the remaining 4,000 juveniles into the river before the event.

Sometimes sturgeon are re-captured during fall sampling or, in the case of 'Cupcake' caught by accident during the First Nation Fishery. In July 2018, one of the 2015 released sturgeon 'Cupcake' was caught in Stuart Lake! Read the story of 'Cupcake'.

Due to COVID-19, there was no public release event in both 2020 and 2021. Check out the video of the 2020 release during which Freshwater Fisheries of BC staff release Nechako White Sturgeon and Spruce City Wildlife Association volunteers release Chinook Salmon. 

2022 was the first year back to having an in-person release event after two years without due to COVID-19. This year was also the first year when, due to changes in the spawning program, there were much fewer sturgeon to release, and so there were only 1 sturgeon per class.