Hundreds of kids got to release their own sturgeon into the Nechako River on May 3, 2019. (Aman Parhar photo)

Sturgeon facing predation challenges in the Nechako

Next year’s sturgeon release will be capped at 200 super size sturgeon along with 1500 chinook fry

The sturgeon hatchery are putting a cap to the number of fish they will release next year, but will be releasing chinook fry at the same time.

“Our community is aware that we are having predation challenges with our sturgeon, especially the juveniles that are in there,” Wayne Salewski, chair of the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative said.

He said the biggest challenge for the sturgeon is with otter and otter families in particular. The hatchery is trying to adapt in different ways including growing larger fish so that they have a better chance of survival.

“So that is a work in progress,” he said.

READ MORE: At-risk white sturgeon preyed upon by otter in the Nechako watershed

READ MORE: Gallery: Nechako White Sturgeon release at Riverside Park

As a result, next year’s release which will take place in the first week of May, is being capped at 200 super size fish. These fish are more than 60 cm in size so they have a better chance of reaching adulthood and don’t have an otter tied to their food chain, he said.

Because they have reduced the number of sturgeon being released next year, the hatchery is partnering with Spruce City Fish and Game Club in Prince George, who are giving 1500 chinook fry to be released at the same time, Salewski said.

“This will be part of the release with our school kids and the community next year.”

Meanwhile, Salewski also presented to council on Oct. 28 during a regular public meeting to inform them about this as well as give them an update about the hatchery and their tourism outreach.

In the past tourism season which is June to August, there were 2200 visits from people across the world. Whereas all year round, 3500 tourists came through town to have a look at the hatchery, he said.

Making the hatchery a destination point is important and Salewski said that there has been one tour company who has brought fifty Swedish travellers to Vanderhoof to look at wood lots, sawmills and the hatchery.

“People who land in Calgary, go to Banff, go to the ancient forest, and then they come to Vanderhoof to the hatchery and we are definitely seeing increased traffic,” he said.

This year, the hatchery hosted a banquet for a contingency of Swedish travellers.

“For me an important issue was how much money did they leave behind in our community in the day and a half they spent here. Taking into consideration hotel rooms, food and everything else, they reported spending $6,000. This demonstrates to our community that this type of tourism is really successful. There is a demand for it and we are excited about that,” he said.

Every year after the sturgeon release, the hatchery closes down for a couple of weeks until the end of June, as it is the egg rearing stage and due to the sensitivity to infections.

Currently, the hatchery has a partnership with both SD91 and the district of Vanderhoof, where they will be putting cameras on specific tanks during the time the hatchery is closed.

These cameras will project out to a television which is going to be installed outside for people to see as the eggs hatch and go through their different life stages, Salewski said. Additionally they will also be projecting this into smart-boards at the local schools and teachers will be able to demonstrate and follow the progress of the fry, until they can re-open the hatchery to the general public again.

The collaboration between SD91 and the hatchery is great exposure for the students, Salewski said.

“We are really pleased with that. The uptake with the school system and community has been tremendous.”

Lastly, for tourism purposes, Salewski advised council during the regular public meeting that more signage be put on the highway, so that more visitors passing through town can stop and have a look.

Aman Parhar
Editor, Vanderhoof Omineca Express

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