I visited the Nechako River sturgeon hatchery today and got to go on a tour of the facility.
The tour started with a little sterilizing. Everyone was asked to use hand sanitizer and to step into a shallow puddle to help sanitize their shoes or anything they may be tracking in. The person from the hatchery took us around the tanks and talked about the sturgeon in the river and the program they are running there.
They use river water in the hatchery (from the Nechako river) and are able to reuse the water at a rate of about 94%. Some is obviously lost to waste.
The sturgeon eggs and milt were collected from the river and some pitt tags were put in the mature fish they collected. The estimates of the population of sturgeon in the river are measured in the hundreds instead of the historic thousands. Apparently they are considered a distinct strain from the fraser river white sturgeon and are considered endangered. The reason for the low numbers is thought to be due to habitat loss because of lower water caused by a dam upstream. More silt in the water is also thought to be choking out the eggs. Apparently the river doesn't get a proper freshet due to the dam so it doesnt 'flush' out all the silt.
I did ask if the Nechako sturgeon ever venture down stream into the fraser and apparently they don't really do it which is part of the reason they are considered a seperate strain.
The hatchery collects and hatches the eggs. The young are reared and fed multiple times a day through an automatic feeder. The feed is a small pellet in which their nutrients are mixed in. They are grown to about a foot in length and then released into the river to do their thing.
In a seperate pool at the hatchery they have two female sturgeon. This two gals (Slimey an Khaleesi) were kept because their eggs were premature and not as formed as they were expected to be for their size (about 6' for Slimey and around 7' for Khaleesi). They will be holding onto them until May when they can hopefully harvest the eggs and release the two back into the river.
It was a very cool tour. I learned sturgeon have a spiral intestine and therefore when they defecate in the water it comes out in little coils. I also left my contact information for when they need volunteers for tagging and egg harvesting/fertilizing. Looking forward to going back again.