Cheers, Pete and Gabe.
The 2013 results for white sturgeon sampling by Fraser River White Sturgeon Conservation volunteers are in and there are some interesting results. Since 2000, the number of certified volunteers increased from 15 to 100. In that first year, 1,400 sturgeon were captured and tagged. In the most recent year, 12,000 sturgeon were captured, tagged and released making this the biggest year ever!
The volunteers are licensed under a provincial Fish Collection Permit issued to a certified biologist. All the volunteers must adhere to the permit conditions to ensure the safety and longevity of the sturgeon and collect valid scientific data. Proper handling of fish is a key issue. Only certified taggers can scan fish for Passive Integrated Transponder Tags (PIT Tags). If the fish are untagged, a tiny glass encased micro chip is injected just behind the scull plate on the left hand side.
Certain taggers also assist with the capture and tissue sampling for biological studies. Here a 6 foot 9 inch sturgeon captured in the Pitt River is sampled for a section of fin rays. The sampling is under the direction of the B.C. Ministry of Environment, University of B.C. and the University of Southern California at Berkeley. At the USC lab, a laser will be used to vaporize a thin wafer of the fin ray. A mass spectrograph will analyse the vapour from each ray of the fin for the metal Strontium. The Strontium atoms have come from the ancient granite in each watershed where the fish has lived. Since Strontium undergoes unique radioactive decay, the mix of strontium atoms are unique in each river basin. This fish had been in the Harrison River, upper Fraser River, lower Fraser River near Steveston and was now exploring the Pitt River. Each phase of it's life history will be revealed in each layer of the fin ray, like the rings in a tall cedar tree.
Taggers (and sport fishermen) must not take fish larger than 1.5 meters (5 feet) out of the water. Lifting such large fish could damage internal organs and in females (which only reach maturity at 20+ years) the eggs could be damaged. The fish should be kept at shore in water deep enough so there is little chance of putting pressure on internal organs and so that the gills are able to allow the fish to breath.
Fish under 1.5 meters (5 feet) may only be brought into the boat and placed into a sling filled with water. This allows the fish to be safely examined, measured and tagged. The volunteer taggers have collected over 92,500 data samples with over 50,100 PIT tags inserted into individual fish and over 37,100 fish re-captured. The annual contribution by volunteers like the Fraser Legends Fishing Guides and other guides is valued at over $1,200,000 per year! This makes the Fraser River White Sturgeon Conservation Society program one of the premier wildlife science programs in the world!
The volunteers also note physiological issues such as skin pigmentation or injuries, damage or deformities to fins, presence of tumors and virus infections and any other issue that could relate to the health and well being of the fish. These valuable photos and notes are sent in to a central data base where it is analysed and the recovery status of the sturgeon is carefully tracked.
As of January 2012, the estimate of the number of sturgeon between 40 cm (1.3 ft) and 279 cm (9.1 ft) in length in the lower Fraser River was estimated to be 49,313 fish. This is an 8% increase over the previous year but still less than the maximum of about 58,000 fish estimated in 2003. While the biggest increase in numbers was in the 140 cm (4.6 ft) to 180 cm (5.9 ft) size group there is a noticeable decline in the less than 80 cm (2.6 ft) range. This means that continued assessment is necessary to determine if there are serious environmental issues facing the younger sturgeon. It also means that all anglers must do their part to safely handle the fish they catch and ensure they are released as quickly as possible to ensure the survival of this magnificent fish. Fraser Legends Fishing wants to thank all the other volunteer guides and the Fraser River White Sturgeon Conservation Society scientific staff for their dedicated and ongoing hard work. We look forward to seeing all of you out there on the water this coming season.
Cheers, Pete and Gabe.
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My name is Peter Krahn and I want to welcome you to Fraser Legends Fishing Blog. We look forward to keeping up with all our friends as we pursue good times and tight lines!