Friday, August 12, 2011

Stories about Getting to Clean Water: Baby white sturgeon released into Columbia River

By Marcie Mangold, Ecology’s Eastern Regional Office

This future fisherman helps release a baby white sturgeon.
On April 28, over 60 people formed a “human chain” to pass buckets containing baby sturgeon so they could release them into the Columbia River in Grant County. A truck transported the 10-month-old sturgeon from the hatchery to the ceremony site near Priest Rapids.

The fish release was part of a ceremony to celebrate the White Sturgeon Recovery Conservation Program effort. Rex Buck, Jr. and other Wanapum Tribal members blessed the fish at the event and spoke of their importance to Wanapum and Yakama Native American cultures. Other speakers at the event included Paul Ward and Donella Miller from the Yakama Nation, and Grant PUD’s Assistant Manager, Chuck Berrie and Senior Biologist, Mike Clement.

Each fish tagged

Each fish released contained a passive tag that biologists can use to identify the fish when they are caught. These tags allow the researchers to track their movements, growth, and survival within the river over the next 20+ years. About one percent of the total sturgeon released also contained a sonic tag that emits a signal that can tell the biologists specifically where they are located without the need to catch the fish. These tags will work for up to five years.

Dams are hard on sturgeon

Dams along the Columbia River Basin have reduced white sturgeon populations. White sturgeon in the middle and upper Columbia River now reside in human-controlled and impounded reservoirs between dams. While these populations are able to reproduce, the juvenile or larval fish have a poor survival rate in the natural river, which leads to population declines. Some researchers believe this is likely due to regulation of river flows; flooding of historical critical spawning and rearing habitats; and increased numbers of native and non-native predators due to habitat alteration, introduction of exotic species, and increased pollution.

Read this full story online.

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