There will not be a juvenile White Sturgeon release event in the lower Columbia River area (Beaver Creek/Trail/Castlegar) organized for elementary school students, or a dedicated sturgeon event for the public, in 2016. Due to the immense success of the conservation aquaculture program, the program has changed over the past few years, with the focus now being on collecting eggs and larvae that are produced in the wild and rearing them at the hatchery until nine months of age. This method has been shown to represent more wild adults in the juveniles that are released compared to the traditional method of directly spawning adults at the hatchery. Over 1,000 juveniles were released in the spring of 2015 that were collected as wild eggs and larvae in 2014. While there were some successes in 2015, the collection of wild eggs and larvae yielded only about 75 juveniles for release in the spring of 2016. This is not a sufficient amount to hold a school or public event, but we will have these fish on display for the public during “Critter Day” at Beaver Creek Park on the afternoon of Saturday May 7th.
Juvenile White Sturgeon released from the conservation aquaculture have survived and grown better than originally predicted. It is estimated that there are more than 30,000 of these hatchery origin fish in the Columbia River from HLK Dam in Castlegar down through to Lake Roosevelt. Accordingly, the goal of the aquaculture program has changed to focus on representing as many wild adults as possible while they are still reproducing in the river. With the focus on collecting wild eggs and larvae over the next few years, we expect success to be variable as it depends on numbers of adult sturgeon breeding in the wild as well as other factors related to sampling in the river. In years where adequate numbers of wild origin juveniles are produced, we will organize school and public release events.