The first Nechako White Sturgeon born and raised at the Conservation Facility were released in a public event held on May 4th 2015 at Riverside Park in Vanderhoof!
Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative Save-Our-Sturgeon (NWSRI SOS) release events have not been held since 2009 due to a lack of a permanent facility to produce sturgeon. The Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre became a reality in April 2013 when $10 million in funding was secured to build the hatchery in Vanderhoof. The Conservation Facility began producing Nechako White Sturgeon in May 2014.
The making of the first batch of sturgeon occurred one year before the release event. To help fertilize the eggs volunteers, hatchery staff, and Vanderhoof Mayor, Gerry Thiessen, mix sturgeon eggs and milt (May 2014).
The fry produced were held over winter 2014-15 to allow them to grow larger prior to their release into the wild. The juvenile sturgeon were grown as large as possible in hopes that they will be past the stage of recruitment failure and large enough to avoid most predation.
Seriously loving sturgeon! Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre Hatchery Manager, Cory Williamson, wishes a large juvenile sturgeon the best of luck just before he released it into the wild, 2015.
Over 550 elementary school students in School District 91, including home and private schools, attended the Save-Our-Sturgeon Release Event! The SOS Release Event occurred one year after the sturgeon were produced. The sturgeon were released at Riverside Park in Vanderhoof, which is adjacent to the only known Nechako White Sturgeon spawning grounds.
The event was opened with speeches provided by some of the sponsors.
From left to right Tom Clement CEO District of Vanderhoof, Wayne Salewski NWSRI CWG Chair, Gaby Poirier Rio Tinto Alcan (speaking), Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen (white jacket), Andrew Wilson Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC (FFSBC), Don Peterson FFSBC, Ray Pillipow, FLNRO Fish and Wildlife Section Head, and Abbi the dog.
Children lined up to release a sturgeon!
Children from SD91 wait for their turn to name a sturgeon and release it into the wilds of the Nechako River. The sturgeon were released near the only known Nechako White Sturgeon spawning grounds.
As the children wait to release a sturgeon, the sturgeon wait to be released!
One year old Nechako white sturgeon wait to be released into the wilds of the Nechako River.
Before its release each fish must be scanned and its unique PIT (passive integrated transponder) tag identification recorded into a database.A PIT tag is similar to the tag an owner may put in their dog so information on the animal can be obtained should the dog get lost. When we catch a sturgeon it is scanned and its PIT tag information will appear allowing us to identify the individual fish.
University of Northern British Columbia’s Fish and Wildlife Students, including Caroline Seip and Michael Leong, volunteered their time scanning fish and recording the data from the event.
Thirty of the largest juvenile fish released also received radio-tags. Radio-tags allow researchers to track the fish throughout the watershed. Each fish receives its own unique radio-tag code.
Christina Ciesielski, Fisheries Manager for the Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council, gets ready to release a large one year old sturgeon into the Nechako River. This juvenile is large enough to hold a radio-transmitter. Can you spot the antenna for the radio transmitter? Since radio-transmitters are implanted in the sturgeon’s abdominal cavity the antenna is under the sturgeon by Christina’s right hand.
Once their fish was scanned and named children released their fish down a chute that lead into the Nechako River. This student’s fish is being released with the help of the Department of Fisheries and Ocean’s Officer and NWSRI Community Working Group member, Phil Taylor.
In addition to naming and releasing a fish students learned about white sturgeon biology, conservation, and water quality in the Nechako River. One of the most popular games is the salmon wheel-of-death. Participants spin the wheel to see how they fair in the life cycle of a salmon – do they live to see another day or do they die? The game is based on the fact that only two percent of salmon fry make it to spawn!
Participants gather around the Wheel of Death to determine their salmonoid fate.
The District of Vanderhoof provided a free lunch for all participants! A BBQ ran throughout the event and fed about 600 people. While people ate they could learn about what sturgeon eat. Participants were treated to a display of sturgeon foods gathered from the Murray Creek area. Students got an up-close look at the stonefly, mayfly, and other aquatic insects.
We also had a watershed model display where students could learn about the flow of water through the watershed and into streams, lakes or aquifers. Olin Albertson of Avison Management Services teaches children how watersheds work and the importance of maintaining healthy watersheds to sturgeon.
Participants could also visit the NWSRI tent to see how they measure up to a Nechako White Sturgeon.
The boat used to track radio-tagged sturgeon was also at the event. Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Staff were on-hand to answer any questions and show children how sturgeon are located.
Guided tours of the conservation facility were provided and participants could view how hatchery sturgeon are produced. There were also two large sturgeon that remained in the hatchery tanks waiting for their turn to spawn.
A view of the facilities inside the hatchery used to house the sturgeon fry.
The release event was possible due to a number of volunteer helpers and sponsors. These students from the high school helped with photographing the sturgeon release. From left to right: Shayla Martins, Devon Baines and Maria Ebbot.
The NWSRI extends our sincere appreciation to all of the sponsors and volunteers that helped make our first hatchery release event a fun and educational experience! We would also like to thank all of the participants for helping us celebrate the release of the first Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre fish.
To see MORE PICTURES from the Save Our Sturgeon Release Event 2015 click here or visit our photo gallery page.
If you participated in the release event and would like to check on whether or not your fish has been located by researchers please visit the Where is My Fish Page.
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