help save the nechako white sturgeon

Frequently Asked Questions

We've assembled some of the more commonly asked questions that we hear. If you have a question that is not answered on this page, please send an e-mail to info@nechakowhitesturgeon.org.

  1. What are white sturgeon?
  2. Why is the Nechako white sturgeon unique?
  3. Where are white sturgeon found in the Nechako watershed?
  4. Why do the Nechako white sturgeon need protection?
  5. Why are Nechako white sturgeon endangered?
  6. Is commercial or recreational fishing for white sturgeon permitted?
  7. Who are the main partners in the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative in BC?
  8. How is the effort to protect the Nechako white sturgeon organized?
  9. What are the First Nations roles in protecting the Nechako white sturgeon?
  10. How can I get involved?

1. What are white sturgeon?

The white sturgeon is North America’s largest freshwater fish. While white sturgeon in southern British Columbia rivers can grow to a length of 6 metres (19 feet) and a weight of 800 kg (1800 lbs.), the Nechako white sturgeon is generally smaller, reaching about 3 metres, during a lifetime that may span more than 100 years. It gets its name from the white along the sides and belly, but perhaps the most distinctive features of the sturgeon are the five rows of bony plates or scutes along its body, which give it a prehistoric armored appearance. In fact, fossil records indicate that the white sturgeon has changed little over millions of years. The white sturgeon is omnivorous, eating live and dead fish, invertebrates, plants, and other organic material.

2. Why is the Nechako white sturgeon unique?

DNA testing has shown that the Nechako white sturgeon is genetically unique from all other groups of sturgeon. As well, tracking the Nechako white sturgeon has indicated that few sturgeon from the Nechako travel into the Fraser River. Saving the Nechako white sturgeon means saving a species that is totally and completely one-of-a-kind.

3. Where are white sturgeon found in the Nechako watershed?

View map of region

Nechako white sturgeon have been commonly found in the Nechako River, as well as the Stuart River and its tributaries. They have also been sighted in larger lakes such as Fraser, Takla, Trembleur and Stuart.

4. Why do the Nechako white sturgeon need protection?

The white sturgeon is a unique, native fish species that is being threatened with extinction. In December 1994, the sturgeon, already assigned to BC’s Red List in 1993, was upgraded to “critically imperiled”. In November 2003, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designated it “endangered,” indicating that this species is facing imminent extirpation or extinction. The most recent estimates have put the Nechako River population at fewer than 600 adult sturgeon. Furthermore, recent surveys have found few young fish, which indicates that sturgeon are not reproducing successfully and/or that juveniles are not surviving to adulthood. At the current rate of population decline the Nechako white sturgeon will be extinct in 25 years unless something is done.

5. Why are Nechako white sturgeon endangered?

View 'Conservation Status' page on this site

The reasons for recruitment failure of Nechako white sturgeon are not fully understood but are likely related to a variety of causes. These include dam construction (which altered natural seasonal water flow patterns), loss of food supply, pollution from industrial and municipal sources and others. Collectively, these factors have endangered the white sturgeon by reducing their reproductive success, and possibly degraded their habitat.

6. Is commercial or recreational fishing for white sturgeon permitted?

All commercial and sport harvesting of white sturgeon in British Columbia was banned in 1994. Sport fishing for sturgeon was allowed only under catch-and-release rules. In 2000, all sport fishing was closed for white sturgeon in the Nechako watershed due to conservation concerns.

7. Who are the main partners in the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative in BC?

The administrative responsibility for the management of the white sturgeon and all freshwater species belongs with the BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection. Fisheries and Oceans Canada ensures recovery planning is consistent with federal acts, policies and regulations, including federal policy for the management of fish habitat. A complete list of Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative (NWSRI) partners is available by viewing the Participants Page.

8. How is the effort to protect the Nechako white sturgeon organized?

The Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative (NWSRI) involves two committees:

9. What are the First Nations roles in protecting the Nechako white sturgeon?

In 1994, First Nations voluntarily stopped their traditional sturgeon fishery in response to the addition of this species to the Province’s Red List. Since the signing of the Letter of Understanding in 2000, First Nations members have been participating on the Action Planning Group (APG) and Recovery Team committees for the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative.

10. How can I get involved?

To find out more about how you can get involved, review the 'How Can I Get Involved?' page of the site.

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