Here are some of the more common questions asked of us, grouped under topics. You may click on each tab topic to see the question(s) under that topic.
Sport fishing harvest of white sturgeon in the Canadian section of the upper Columbia River was banned in 1994. First Nations people also voluntarily stopped their sustenance harvests on this population of white sturgeon. Recommendations by U.S. Tribal and Washington State fish managers, in support of the Initiative, closed the US fishery for this species in the upper Columbia in the spring of 2002.
The Species at Risk Act came into effect in Canada in June 2003. (S.A.R.A.) The Species at Risk Act was created to ensure the survival of wildlife species and the protection of our natural heritage. It requires Canada to provide for the recovery of species at risk due to human activity, and to manage species of special concern to make sure they don’t become endangered or threatened. It provides for the protection of the species, their residences and critical habitat. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assesses the results of public feedback and information gathered during public consultations and determines whether a species or population may be listed under S.A.R.A. A listing by S.AR.A. gives long term certainty and a legal requirement for protection of white sturgeon for the future.
The administrative responsibility for the management of the white sturgeon and all freshwater species belongs with the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Fisheries and Oceans Canada ensures recovery planning is consistent with federal acts, policies and regulations, including federal policy for the management of fish habitat. The Canadian Columbia River Inter-tribal Fisheries Commission and Okanagan Nation Alliance Fisheries Department is assisting the Ktunaxa and Shuswap Nation governments in their consideration of necessary recovery measures. Canadian and U.S. power producers recognize the sturgeon recruitment issue in the upper Columbia and acknowledge that hydroelectric development has likely contributed toward the decline of white sturgeon populations and productivity. Industrial stakeholders have acknowledged pollution issues and regional governments have recognized the species benefit to communities. In the U.S., the funding and support comes from the Bonneville Power Administration Fish and Wildlife Program with recommendations for funding provided by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council Fish and Wildlife Program. Coordination of U.S. recovery activities for upper Columbia white sturgeon occurs through the Lake Roosevelt Sturgeon Recovery Project. The project is a cooperative effort amongst the Spokane Tribe of Indians, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Colville Confederated Tribes. The Spokane Tribe of Indians coordinates these efforts.
The white sturgeon of the upper Columbia River are valued because they are integral to First Nations and US tribal culture, once supported a historic recreational fishery, and are an important part of BC’s natural heritage. They are also intrinsically valuable as a unique species and for their role in the biodiversity of the Columbia River basin. In the lower Columbia River (below Bonneville Dam), where white sturgeon continue to thrive and harvest fisheries still occur, they are noted for the high quality of their meat as well their eggs or caviar. Today, fishing for white sturgeon is closed in the upper Columbia River watershed in Washington and British Columbia because of their declining numbers.
Biologists are conducting extensive research and monitoring of white sturgeon throughout the upper Columbia River basin. Results of the research will provide critical information about what these fish require for their survival. Fertilization programs are also underway to restore depleted nutrients and enhance primary productivity within reservoirs. Since 2001, UCWSRI partners have undertaken a conservation fish culture program at two Canadian hatcheries, the initial pilot work from the Hill Creek Hatchery near Nakusp until February 2002, and subsequently the Kootenay Sturgeon Conservation Hatchery, located at the Kootenay Trout Hatchery site near Cranbrook. The current facility cultures both upper Columbia and Kootenay River white sturgeon. During February 2004, U.S. Initiative partners assisted in part of the rearing and release program of 2003 brood juveniles at their pilot facility, Columbia Basin Hatchery, Moses Lake, Washington state. Currently both are rearing and released upper Columbia white sturgeon juveniles. In Canada, during fall 2004 and spring 2005 members and community interests participated in a federal government public consultation process to provide input to federal biologists regarding listing the white sturgeon species as Endangered, and subsequently protected under the Species at Risk Act. Such a change would have significant long term recovery benefits for the upper Columbia white sturgeon. The listing would include all British Columbia resident white sturgeon populations in the Kootenay, Nechako and Fraser rivers as well as the upper Columbia River. A decision was made official during summer 2006, with these populations, for lower and middle Fraser sturgeon populations being formally listed as Endangered.
The reasons upper Columbia white sturgeon are endangered are not fully understood however in the last 125 years, human development, loss of habitat, pollution, construction of hydroelectric dams and changes in flow patterns, the introduction of exotic species and harvesting in the upper Columbia River has led to the sturgeon’s decline. Collectively, these factors have endangered the white sturgeon by reducing their reproductive success, restricting their distribution and degrading their habitat.
White sturgeon are distributed throughout the Columbia River between Hugh Keenleyside Dam and Grand Coulee Dam and a small number of adults reside in the Arrow Lakes Reservoir up to Revelstoke Dam. In addition, anecdotal evidence suggests sturgeon were present in both Revelstoke and Kinbasket Reservoirs. The upper Columbia River populations are genetically distinct from those found in the Kootenay system.