A juvenile white sturgeon ready to be placed in Kootenay River.

A juvenile white sturgeon ready to be placed in Kootenay River.

FWCP releasing sturgeon in Kootenay River near Creston

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If you have not yet released a juvenile white sturgeon into the Kootenay River, then May 8 provides the opportunity for you to do so. This free public event runs from 2-4 p.m. at the old ferry landing at the end of Kootenay River Road just west of Creston.

The event is coordinated by the Fish and Wildlife Compen-sation Program (a partnership between the province of B.C., BC Hydro, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada), with support from the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, FortisBC, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and Kootenai Tribe of Idaho.

“There has been virtually no natural recruitment — that is to say, the survival through the egg, larvae, and into the juvenile stage — in the river for more than four decades,” says Sue Ireland, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho fish and wildlife program director. “This is a stop-gap measure, but a critical one in the conservation effort as we, and many other partners, work toward implementing habitat restoration measures that should provide conditions for fish to successfully reproduce in the wild. It is a critical program if we are to avoid this population becoming extinct.”

The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho initiated a sturgeon conservation aquaculture program, with funding from Bonneville Power Administration, in 1991. The program, the first of its kind, collects wild broodstock adult sturgeon from the river and raises the juveniles in the Kootenai Tribal Sturgeon Hatchery in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, and in the Bull River hatchery in the East Kootenay.

In 2013, approximately 2,000 10-month old juvenile white sturgeon, each with an average weight of 102 grams and measuring between 15 and 25 centimetres in length, will be released near Creston, with more being released in the U.S. They can grow to the length of a canoe and live for over 100 years.

“They are certainly incredible fish in so many ways,” says Trevor Oussoren, manager of the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program in the Columbia region. “Holding these prehistoric-looking creatures is like holding part of our natural history in your hands, especially given the fact that sturgeon have remained largely unchanged for 175 million years.”

The Kootenay 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, which has altered the natural flow of the river. There has been virtually no natural reproduction in the wild since 1974. There are thought to be less than a 1,000 adults living on both sides of the border.

For more information about Kootenay River white sturgeon, visit gofishbc.com/Sturgeon.htm.

If you would like more information on the juvenile sturgeon release event, contact the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program at 250-365-4551.