There was some fishy business going on in Gyro Park on Tuesday afternoon as families and kids gathered to learn about, and release, over 300 young white sturgeon into the Columbia River.
Just before the big release, the crowd got a quick fish history lesson about sturgeon, learning that the fish can’t reproduce until they are at least 20 years old.
The fish that were let go into the river are only 10 months old, but the species can live to be over 100. Their shape, habits and biology have remained practically unchanged since the era of the dinosaurs, with their spiny skin and bottom-feeding mouths.
Angus Glass is from the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program and an organizer of the event, and he says it is particularly important to get youth involved with the repopulation of white sturgeon in local waters.
“The interesting thing about the species is that it is long-lived,” he said. “The females don’t start reproducing until they are 25, and the males when they are 20. We adults aren’t going to be around when that time comes.
“It is going to be the kids who are going to be responsible for this stuff later on. Getting them informed early and young is important.
“It is so much more powerful getting the kids to move this forward. And of course, the kids love seeing and holding the fish.”
The species is not having a particularly successful go at maintaining a healthy population on their own, says Glass, making it all the more important for the sturgeon to get a little help from conservationists and programs like this.
“There is virtually no natural recruitment going on in the Columbia River,” he said. “Very few fish are surviving through the egg stage and into the juvenile age. There has been nearly no natural reproduction for the last 40 years or so.”
Along with the excitement of the fish release on the Gyro Park beach, there were educational and fun displays showing the different life stages of the white sturgeon, and even some sturgeon shaped cookies to munch on.
The Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program travels all over the Columbia Basin every year, adding more and more white sturgeon to the ecosystem.
Earlier on Tuesday morning, the program stopped by Beaver Creek Park in Area A with grades 3, 4 and 5 students to release even more white sturgeon into the wild in hopes they will grow to adulthood and reproduce.
The team is on its way to Creston and Revelstoke next, on its mission to boost sturgeon populations and aid the natural ecosystem across the basin.
For more information about the program, visit www.bchydro.com/bcrp/.