This project includes planning and implementation of further action in support of the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative (NWSRI). The project includes components that address two main areas of current focus for the NWSRI: habitat restoration to address recruitment failure and investigation of factors leading to diminished juvenile survival. The outcomes of this work are expected to provide a substantial and timely contribution to the recovery of the Nechako white sturgeon population.
The project components will address the following main areas:
Habitat restoration - planning and implementing next steps.
Spawning locations – effects of environmental variables.
Juvenile survival – identifying factors that influence juvenile survival rate.
Juvenile habitat - winter habitat evaluation.
Juvenile monitoring - genetic tracing of wild recruits and evaluation of lake releases.
This project involves conducting a preliminary presence/absence survey for Umam within the Cheslatta watershed. Initial surveys will provide information regarding Umam presence and distribution that will help create a foundation for future management decisions that facilitate the recovery of Umam populations.
1. Provide an avenue for Cheslatta Carrier Nation members to further develop skills and training in fish habitat assessment and management.
2. Determine the presence of Umam populations within the Cheslatta Watershed.
3. Provide an example of how Traditional Ecological Knowledge can inform wildlife conservation management.
4. Conduct a field survey over 9 days in the Cheslatta Watershed, based on historical Umam spawning areas as documented by CCN elders, using minnow traps, Backpack Electrofishers, and/or seine nets.
5. Completion of fish cards for all fish species captured to submit to the regulatory agencies and for CCN records.
6. Collection of habitat characteristics of each surveyed site including
The purpose of the proposed project is to acquire LiDAR* point cloud data and high resolution airborne digital imagery combined with post acquisition data analysis to define the current state of the Terrain and Hydrology in the Cheslatta River Corridor and watershed.
The CCFNLP will provide a comprehensive and thorough base of data to support:
Specific Project Deliverables will be the identification and definition of:
*Light Detection and Ranging
The University of Northern British Columbia houses an Integrated Watershed Research Group comprising four research chairs: Stephen Déry (Canada Research Chair in Northern Hydrometeorology), Philip Owens (Forest Renewal BC Chair in Landscape Ecology), Ellen Petticrew (Forest Renewal BC Chair in Landscape Ecology), and Margot Parkes (Canada Research Chair in Health, Ecosystems and Society). The chairs have worked collaboratively for several years on integrated watershed-based research with an emphasis on the Fraser River Basin and other northern BC watersheds including the Nechako River Basin. The researchers view integrated watershed research as linking biophysical, chemical, social, and human-health processes to address important environmental, landscape ecology, and community issues.
The integrated watershed research will focus on the following three areas:
The expected outcomes of the project are:
Update at 2017 06 15
This project is no longer active. NEWSS received $300,000.00 from NEEF between April 1st, 2014 and April 12th, 2017. With this funding NEWSS completed;
Nechako Environmental and Water Stewardship Society (NEWSS) will carry out stream restoration works on 30 streams within the Nechako Valley watershed. These projects include but are not limited to bank stabilization, fencing (keeping livestock out of riparian zones), harden crossing of streams for livestock, establishment of riparian zones where required and ensuring proper fish passage with culvert replacements.
NEWSS will further its role of stewardship by creating resources and educational tools, working with rural community and all users of the Nechako watershed resources, facilitating ongoing conversation to exchange knowledge, share perspective and explore opportunities for cooperative learning with First Nations, community residents, landowners, industry leaders, grade schools, universities and appropriate government agencies. NEWSS aspires to maintain sustainable water for landowners through the Nechako watershed and create a cleaner, healthier environment for all residents and visitors to the area.
This two-phase project seeks to understand the physical and biological
conditions in the river over the last 40 years that have supported the
occasional recruitment and subsequent survival and growth of juvenile
Nechako White sturgeon. Phase one will be focussed on ageing of juvenile
sturgeon fin ray samples collected in the Nechako River since 1967 and
comparing the recruitment patterns with biotic and abiotic factors that can
affect success. Using year of birth, phase two will examine patterns of
survival and growth in the context environmental conditions that have
supported survival and good growth. Results will allow the Recovery Team and
FFSBC to calibrate future release of juveniles by understanding trends in
growth and survival as they relate to biotic and abiotic conditions in the
Nechako River. Results will also enable better planning of habitat
restoration measures in the spawning reach at Vanderhoof aimed at enabling
A comprehensive 5-year study on the Fraser River populations of white
sturgeon, including the Nechako River, concluded the Nechako River
population of white sturgeon is a genetically distinct population, isolated
from Fraser main-stem populations and has experienced a decline in juvenile
recruitment that started in the early 1960's and has resulted no measurable
juvenile recruitment since the late 1960's. Recent research has affirmed
this assertion and the current estimated total population size is
approximately 600 fish. There is a high probability of extinction within a
few decades without immediate intervention to prevent further declines.
In January 2001, the provincial Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative
was established to address the critical state of the population. The
purpose of the recovery initiative is to stabilize the remaining population
by preventing further declines, and ultimately to rebuild a self-sustaining
Even if the recruitment problem is immediately rectified, the mature
population would continue to lose numbers of mature fish for the next 25
years to natural mortality given the lag time between juvenile recruitment
and maturation for this population. Without immediate intervention, genetic
diversity will also continue to be eroded. The specific reason(s) for
recruitment failure are not precisely known, and while analysis of this
problem is progressing substantially, recruitment restoration cannot be
guaranteed in the near future. As such, a conservation fish culture is
paramount to preventing extinction of this population, until wild
recruitment can be re-established.
A conservation fish culture program can act immediately serving as an
interim measure to preserve the genetic diversity in the remaining
population, halt the continued loss of juvenile recruitment and initiate the
rebuilding of age structure in the population. In addition, cultured
sturgeon can facilitate a number of research initiatives that will reduce
the uncertainty associated with many components of the recovery program
including the reason(s) for recruitment failure.
The sturgeon conservation centre has been built in Vanderhoof and will be
operational by May 2014. The capital funding was provided by Province of BC,
Rio Tinto Alcan, District of Vanderhoof and other partners. It will be
operated by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC under the auspices of the
Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative.
$4 million dollars will be provided by Rio Tinto Alcan through Nechako
Environmental Enhancement Fund over the next ten years to operate the
facility. An additional $50,000 per year for operations has been provided
from Rio Tinto Alcan directly. The conservation centre will be able to
produce up to 12,000 juvenile sturgeon per year from up to twelve adult
pairs, helping to secure the genetic diversity of this imperilled population
for future generations.
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