Sturgeon numbers swimming shallow

A majority of fish at the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre in Vanderhoof have died.

Cory Williamson

Over three quarters of the fish at the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre have died over the past month.

The new sturgeon recovery facility in Vanderhoof found difficulty dealing with the recent heat wave and water-temperature fluctuation, which created high levels of stress in the fish, said Cory Williamson, facility manager and chair of the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative.

“It’s a complicated piping system and understanding how it operates was challenging. The river temperatures have been high and a bacterial outbreak happened at the same time,” said Mr. Williamson. “But the biggest factor here is learning how to use the technology. It’s all new to us, learning to grow fish in these tanks.”

The goal for the Fresh Water and Fisheries Society project was to release 12,000 sturgeon back into the Nechako river this spring. The hatchery started with 100,000 eggs, expecting to loose over half by their first feeding; it is normal to have a high loss during this stage because the juvenile (young) fish are extremely picky eaters. It is also normal to loose a few more throughout the process but by mid July numbers were lower than anticipated (around ten thousand) and have now dwindled to two thousand over the past month.

“Unfortunately the other stressors occurred during the critical feeding stage that caused even more of a loss. If this happened two weeks later, or if the fish were two weeks older, we wouldn’t have had this problem,” said Mr. Williamson. “It’s bad timing.”

Water temperatures were seen as high as 20 degrees during the initial feeding stage, which created stress on the fish and a viable temperature for bacteria to grow. Since the type of bacteria the fish naturally carry becomes more active once fish are stressed, an infection broke out killing most of the smaller fish with less developed immune systems, said Mr. Williamson.

“[However] the expected survival rate is actually higher now because with less fish in the facility, there is more room for the remaining fish to grow,” said Mr. Williamson, who anticipates the release of 1,000-1,500 strong fish by spring.

Prepared for some challenges, Don Peterson, president of the Fresh Water and Fisheries Society, is confident the project will have better success next year. “It’s a learning experience for the staff and the society in general. We expected to have some challenges and hoped to overcome them quickly enough without impact on the fish, but unfortunately the situation arose we couldn’t mitigate it quickly enough. It’s a brand new facility with brand new hatchery technology, which gives advantages but is definitely a learning curve. We are confident we will get better in upcoming years with the focus now on getting as many of the last few thousand fish to yearling size as possible.”

 

 

Just Posted

Q & A with Rio Tinto Operations Director

Inflows between July, 2018 and June 2019 has been the second lowest since 1956

Fraser Lake business offers equine therapy to deal with life stressors

The idea is to have diverse businesses that provide more options to residents and tourists says Kim Watt-Senner

Smithers man receives two-year sentence for fatal car crash

Over a year after a fatal crash, a Smithers man has been sentenced to two years plus a day in jail.

First Nations push for massive conservation area in northern B.C.

Includes ancestral areas of three Kaska Dena First Nations, just shy of the B.C.-Yukon border

VIDEO: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Shovels could be in the ground on Trans Mountain by September, CEO says

Ian Anderson points to weeks likely required for NEB to reinstate 2016 regulatory record

Scorpion gives birth after hitching ride in B.C. woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought the animal home from a trip to Cuba

RCMP allows officers to grow beards

Members can now wear beards and goatees, as long as they’re neatly groomed

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at B.C. campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

Most Read