For 11 years, school children from across the Nechako Valley and further have descended upon Riverside park in the heart of Vanderhoof to release year-old sturgeon fry in the Nechako River.
“We’ve got kids now that are actually just finishing high school that helped out with the original releases. Yeah, it’s almost becoming generational,” says Cory Williamson, Fish Biologist and one of the founding members of the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative.
Since 2006, the number of kids involved with the recovery and release program has grown and the even has taken on the feel of a country fair, with everyone from the community joining in. Wayne Salewski highly doubts the event will grow old.
“No I don’t. The dinosaurs, right off the bat, [the sturgeon] are cute as a button, everybody’s excited by it. You hear those little kids ‘I named him Awesome Bob!’ and the look on their face, and the look on mom’s face and grandma’s face. I doubt it will get stale.”
In November of 2003, the fate of the Nechako White Sturgeon was bleak. With fewer than 600 adult sturgeon in the watershed, it was designated “endangered” by the federal government. The Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative was launched a year later. A challenge with the recovery effort is the fish itself. It spawns in one location only, the very site where the fry are being released. But over the years, that spawning ground has altered and that’s a large reason for the declining fish populations. Williamson says that third prong of the recovery plan still needs work, but progress has been made.
“There’s a lot of folks who came together in a positive way with the Nechako White Sturgeon recovery program and saw the possibility of recovery and worked hard. We got the community of Vanderhoof, all levels of government, First Nations, everybody came together and said ‘Yeah, this is doable.’ and I think we’re getting close.”
But this day had nothing to do with science or politics, and everything to do with kids and Vanderhoof’s beloved fish.