Vanderhoof held their annual sturgeon release on May 3.
Elementary school students from across the school district, got the chance to name their own sturgeon and release it into the Nechako River.
The Nechako White Sturgeon is an endangered species and is listed under the Species At Risk Act.
Wayne Salewski, chair of the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative committee said the role of the sturgeon hatchery is to protect the genetic diversity of the sturgeon.
“We have a genetic set of DNA which is really important to the longevity of this program. So we spawn our fish out this month of every year in May sometime. We make our babies inside the hatchery and we roll them through the whole program and we release them one year later as a 1-year old fish,” Salewski explained.
There are nine release sites on the Nechako River and the shore close to Riverside Park is one of them. Salewski said kids get to give the 1-year old sturgeon they release a name, “these kids put a funky name to the fish — awesome Bob, to Billy to every name in the book gets in there.”
Once the fish has been released, children get to track that fish for the rest of its life, through the sturgeon recovery committee’s internet site.
The recovery program has been running for about a decade now and even though the genetic diversity of the fish has improved, survival rates are still an issue, Salewski added. The sturgeon are eaten by sea gulls, eagles, otters and others.
“And the sturgeon aren’t necessarily the most aggressive fish in getting away. They are pretty placid. So we have challenges and concerns about that. One of the challenges is that our habitat is not very full of cover. It’s pretty clear all the way through. So these fish don’t necessarily have a place to hide,” he explained.
The technical working group of the recovery committee are working towards understanding how they can help the sturgeon survive, however, their intent is to lead the sturgeon to a place where they are naturally living in the system.
Salewski said when they set up their first facility ten years ago, they were producing smaller fish than they are now.
Mayor Gerry Thiessen said,”you know what is neat is the amount of understanding that young people have for the river and the health of the watershed. So that was a really encouraging day for me and I was really impressed by the number of children that were engaged in the entire process there.”
Meanwhile, during the event held on May 3, there were dozens of educational stations explaining every aspect of a sturgeon’s life — from the sturgeon’s diet, to cause of death, age they live to and more.
Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty said the sturgeon hatchery is an excellent example of community based solutions.
“It is an exciting day for me, because what you are witnessing today is the combination of tonne of effort and volunteer hours and it shows what a community can do when they rally around an issue. When you look at the students that are here, all the kids have gone through this program and have been engaged at such a young age to understand the importance of our waterways and actually doing everything they can to protect our environment and species that are at-risk.”