Sturgeon group issues boat warning

The Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative (NWSRI) has issued a warning to river boat traffic to stay away from their research project areas on the river.

The Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative (NWSRI) has issued a warning to river boat traffic to stay away from their research project areas on the river.

Last month the NWSRI launched a sturgeon spawning research project on two areas of the Nechako River. Two clean gravel beds were placed into the river, one by Fehrs Bridge and the other by the Nechako Bridge.

A number of yellow and orange buoys mark the areas of the gravel beds.

“All of the buoys are attached to either an egg mat or a net,” said Community Working Group (CWG) Chair Brian Frenkel.

“We’re trying to monitor the success of the gravel beds and we know that we’ve had one pair that have spawned over top of the gravel beds so now we’re trying to capture any eggs and larvae that may come out of that,” he said.

He says that some of the boat traffic in the river have been seen using the buoys as part of a slalom course and that the wash from the boats is dislodging the buoys, mats and nets from their strategic locations.

“We don’t want to close the river, we just want to ask the public boating traffic to stay away from the buoys until the research project is complete,” said Frenkel.

He added that boaters should maintain a 25 metre distance from the buoys, as failure to do so could harm the white sturgeon and would be an offence under the Species at Risk Act.

“There’s lots of river out there, just stay away from the buoys … 25 metres sounds like alot but that river is a long way across … stay to the south shore and you’ll be good,” said Frenkel.

Research will be ongoing on the river for another six to eight weeks.

The NWSRI’s Technical Working Group (TWG) and Carrier Sekani Tribal Council (CSTC) have two boats currently going out on a daily basis. They will be conducting research in the area for the next six to eight weeks.

After this time the collected data will be compiled and the groups will take a short break before they start looking for larger juvenile sturgeon in the fall.

The number of mature sturgeon of breeding age is currently estimated to be less than 350. Nechako white sturgeon are federally listed as endangered under schedule one of the Species at Risk Act due to ongoing recruitment failure (since 1967), which has led to an extremely low number of juveniles. The Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative has a two-pronged strategy for recovery that concurrently seeks to use hatchery production to preserve the remaining genetic variation, and to use research to determine and mitigate the habitat based causes of recruitment failure. Both components of this strategy are critical to achieve the goal of restoring a naturally self-sustaining population. Investment in Nechako sturgeon recovery in the short term offers one of the best chances for the successful recovery of this endangered population.