This year marks the 12th annual Juvenile White Sturgeon release, hosted by the Upper Columbia White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative (UCWSRI).
The release events will take place at Beaver Creek Provincial Park, near Trail, on May 1, between noon and 1 p.m., and at Hugh Keenleyside Dam (on the Celgar side), near Castlegar on May 2, between 2 and 4 p.m.
“This is a great way to really reach out, touch, and help an endangered species – quite literally,” says Gerry Nellestijn, chair of the community working group of the UCWSRI.
“The fish look and feel like creatures from prehistoric times. In fact they have largely remained unchanged for 175 million years. By getting the community, particularly the younger generations, involved, and increasing awareness, we feel there are much better chances for the survival of this population.”
Approximately 4,000 ten-month-old juvenile white sturgeon will be released into various locations of the Columbia River between Castlegar and Trail, with about 1,500 being released at the main release site below Hugh Keenleyside Dam.
The juvenile sturgeon are raised by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC in their Bull River hatchery in the East Kootenay through a program funded by BC Hydro and the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program. They are produced from wild adults, caught in the Columbia River last June.
“Juvenile sturgeon are doing well,” added Nellestijn. “For every 1,000 fish released approximately 180 survive to age 12. The Conservation Aquaculture Program is a critical stop-gap measure to save this population. Currently there is virtually no natural recruitment taking place — that is to say little survival of the eggs through the larvae stage, and growing into juveniles and adults.”
The Sturgeon Recovery Initiative annually assess juvenile sturgeon stocking numbers and, based on feedback from the Technical Working Group of the UCWSRI, have and will adjust those numbers. In 2012 the Initiative went riverside to get and to share information about the Recovery Program and about sturgeon encounters.
“We found that sturgeon encounters do occur, but we also know from 15 years of rainbow trout monitoring that rainbow numbers are steadily increasing,” said Nellestijn. “In fact 2013 may turn out to be the best year for rainbow trout yet.”
The Initiative is a partnership of more than 20 stakeholders from government, First Nations, industry, community and environmental organizations. Sturgeon recovery includes research to determine the causes of decline, release of hatchery-reared juveniles from wild stock adults, restoration of habitat, and monitoring and management of water flows.
Funding support for the release event is from BC Hydro, FortisBC, Teck and the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program.
For more information about the sturgeon release event call the BC Hydro office at 250-365-4550, and to find out more about the UCWSRI visit uppercolumbiasturgeon.org.