The annual Juvenile Sturgeon Release is one of Mike Manky’s favorite days of the year that will once again look different this spring due to COVID-19.
Hundreds of students throughout the Nechako watershed would typically help release the juvenile sturgeon hatched and raised at the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre in Vanderhoof.
“It won’t’ be happening this year like that, but we have been working with the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative to coordinate virtual opportunities for the same classes to be able to take part, name fish for classrooms, and also see some video of those fish being released,” the hatchery manager said.
“It’s not the same, but it at least keeps the students up to date on what’s happening with the releases and keeps them engaged.”
Around 200 juvenile sturgeon that are two years old and approximately 70 centimeters long will be released by staff of the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, which Manky said has worked hard throughout the pandemic to protect the core functions of the centre.
Measures such as not having volunteers, suspending public tours and postponing in-person programs with School District 91 have been implemented.
Manky said high school biology students and volunteers would normally be helping them catch adult sturgeon from the river to spawn at the hatchery where the eggs of up to eight female sturgeon are mixed with the sperm of up to 12 males for maximum genetic diversity.
“We’re still working every day to get a few more for spawning in late May,” he said, noting it can be challenging to catch the prehistoric fish in which a female spawns only every three to five years.
“It is tough to find those fish, but we do find them, and we do expect to get enough for a very successful program this year. We’re off to a very good start with three females and one male so far.”
The Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre currently has three full-time staff and two summer students.
Manky has been with the centre since it opened in June 2014.