Hey Earth Rangers, thanks for checking in on this important project!
Wow – there’s a lot to say about the amazing white sturgeon in the Kootenay Lake and River, and we’ve got the official scoop for you right here! Check out the latest (and final!) update from our amazing friends on the sturgeon squad!
Thank you for the introduction! Out here, in British Columbia, our sturgeon squad is wrapping up our incredible Kootenay white sturgeon sampling study, and thanks to Earth Rangers (like all of you!) we think we had a promising year! You may wonder how we were able to study the sturgeon population out here, and we’re more than happy to help explain the whole process! So, here we go: The work we did this year involved gill netting, angling and set lining to catch and study white sturgeon in the Kootenay Lake and River – but don’t worry, even though we did have to catch the fish to study them we always handled them with incredible care, and were able to successfully release them all.
The gill netting portion of our study was focused on catching young (juvenile) sturgeon – it’s our hope that these young sturgeons will mature into healthy, reproducing adults! This is super important because the information gathered from the young sturgeon will help us understand the health of the sturgeon in the whole system! This year we caught three young sturgeon we believe to be wild, which is good news, as this indicates that some sturgeon are reproducing without our help! In total, 626 young hatchery sturgeons were caught this year. The largest young sturgeons encountered were in Kootenay Lake, rather than the Kootenay River and the size difference is likely linked to the overall population of the sturgeon in the river (as well as the availability of food).
The angling and set lining portion of our study was focused on adult sturgeons. Wondering what angling and set lining is? Set lining is essentially a rope with baited hooks, and this lays on the bottom of the river (or lake). This year we caught 68 sturgeons while set lining, 25 were adults and 43 were young. We also caught 44 while angling (this is just a fancy way to say ‘fishing’), 27 were adults and 17 were young.
When an adult sturgeon was caught, it was placed onto a stretcher, carefully lifted into the boat and cared for (by pouring water over its gills to keep it breathing) while we made our measurements, and collected data.
One of the most important parts of the sampling process is determining the fish’s sex, and maturity (to understand when they would reproduce/spawn). Since reproduction is the most important part of the survival and recovery of the white sturgeon in the Kootenay system, gaining information from spawning females is absolutely critical! Finding this data was done by very carefully examining the sturgeon; if it is was found to be a female, that would be spawning next spring, we attached a small transmitter (don’t worry – our transmitters are completely harmless to our fishy friends!).
By using data received by our transmitter & technology we can determine whether the female sturgeons are using newly created habitats to move further upstream, or if they are spawning on the substrate that has been placed for them. With this valuable information, we are able to determine how river flows can be modified to better support spawning sturgeon, and what areas and habitat(s) should be protected or rehabilitated to encourage natural reproduction!
Overall, this sampling season was another successful year! The data collected is super important to help biologists gain a better understanding of the Kootenay white sturgeon and the sturgeon’s population at large. It is our hope that the Kootenay white sturgeon will one day be naturally reproducing and reach a healthy, sustainable population!
Thank you Earth Rangers for the support and interest in this important (and incredible!) species, your efforts helped make this happen!