Sturgeon release at Riverside Park

For an entire year the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre has been growing fish that were released May 4.

Kids from all around the Nechako Lakes came to Vanderhoof May 4 to release sturgeon into the Nechako River.

Kids from all around the Nechako Lakes came to Vanderhoof May 4 to release sturgeon into the Nechako River.

Swim fishy, swim.

About 600 sturgeon slid into the Nechako River at Riverside Park Monday, May 4 during a second-wave release as part of the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative (NWSRI).  Another set of about 600 fish were released a couple weeks prior making a total of about 1,200 endangered fish released this spring into Nechako waters.

President of Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C., Andrew Wilson, said this year’s release is just the beginning of a big project to rebuild the sturgeon population in the Nechako.

“It’s a real positive move to recover the fish population and, although [numbers were low] the bigger fish will have higher survival rates,” Wilson said at the release.

Hundreds of kids from seven area elementary schools gathered at the park. Each student held, named and released a fish down a water slide-type tube into the river. Director of instruction Eugene Marks, called the event a vital hands-on portion of the Nechako White Sturgeon curriculum that made its way into schools last fall.

“Just look at the faces of the kids. Instead of sitting in a class room they actually get to personally send off the fish,” Marks said.

Nechako Valley Secondary School students were also part of the day, documenting the commemorative beginning of the hopeful fish re-population.

Gr 12 Enviro Vikes worked together with the Nechako Environmental Water Stewardship Society (NEWSS) previously to the release as part of their watershed curriculum.

Enviro Vikes member Angela Harkins, Gr 12, said the entire program was so fun to learn about.

“It’s important to conserve the habitat that was here and make it the best fit for the sturgeon as possible,” she said, as she helped a struggling fish out of the slide and into the flowing waters.

Now that the fish have been released, the NWSRI team are out capturing brood fish for the next three weeks to start spawning at the end of May, so we can create a whole new batch of juveniles, Cory Williamson said, manager of the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre.

Tours of the conservatory are open to the public as walk-ins throughout the summer every Thursday from 2-3 p.m. or by appointment.

Don Holloway, a retired teacher from school district 91, has volunteered to be one of the tour guides.

“I’m an avid fisherman and if we didn’t make this hatchery the sturgeon would be extinct in 10-20 years. The education for the kids is absolutely fantastic. Naming the fish is excellent too because now they’ll take ownership of the river,” Holloway said.

For more information visit www.nechakowhitesturgeon.org or www.gofishbc.com.