Holding a juvenile white sturgeon is like holding a miniature, bony-plated prehistoric creature. That is not surprising since the sturgeon family has remained largely unchanged for more than 175 million years when dinosaurs roamed the earth. On Tuesday April 20, the public has a chance to hold and release one of these “ancients of the deep” and, in so doing, can lend a helping hand to an endangered species.
The juvenile sturgeon release will take place between noon and 2.00 p.m. at the Old Ferry Landing, located at the end of Kootenay River Road just outside Creston.
The event is being organized by the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) with support from the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC (FFSBC), Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, the Ministry of Environment (MOE) and Kootenai Tribe of Idaho (KTOI).
“The partners believe that public involvement in this conservation effort is key in increasing awareness about the sturgeon and promoting a better understanding what action is being taken to help them,” says Wynndel resident and FWCP public representative Gerry Thompson. “Added to which holding and releasing a juvenile sturgeon is a great experience – they are truly amazing creatures!”
The 10-month old juveniles weigh about 70 grams and are typically between 15 and 25 centimetres in length. They can grow to the length of a canoe and live for over 100 years.
The Kootenai River sturgeon population is endangered in both Canada and the U.S. due to a variety of human impacts, including the operation of Libby Dam that has altered the natural flow of the river. There has been virtually no natural reproduction in the wild since 1974.
As a result, a conservation aquaculture program – the very first of its kind – was initiated by the KTOI with funding from Bonneville Power Administration in 1991. The program collects wild broodstock adult sturgeon from the river and raises the juveniles in a hatchery. In 2010 the KTOI, together with the MOE and FFSBC, will raise and release about 1,600 juvenile sturgeon, from five adult broodstock families, near Creston. The hatchery is raising an additional 6,400 to be released in the U.S. and more sturgeon are raised at the Kootenai Tribal Hatchery in Idaho to support this unique cross-border recovery program.
“We know that raising and releasing juvenile sturgeon is a stop-gap measure but it is a very important component of the conservation effort while the Kootenai Tribe and others work toward implementing habitat restoration measures that should provide conditions for fish to successfully reproduce in the wild,” says Sue Ireland, Fish & Wildlife Program Director for the KTOI. “We believe that there are fewer than 1,000 adult sturgeon, on both sides of the border, in the Kootenai River so the aquaculture program is critical if we are to avoid this population becoming extinct.” For more information about Kootenai River white sturgeon, visit www.gofishbc.com/Sturgeon.htm. If you would like more information on the juvenile sturgeon release event contact the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program at (250) 352-6874, or visit www.fwcp.ca.