2020 News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE WHITE STURGEON POPULATION CONTINUES 13-YEAR DECLINE IN LOWER FRASER RIVER
The Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society (FRSCS) announced today the results of its annual population assessment for White Sturgeon in the lower Fraser River and estuary. Results of the study indicate that the monitored population of White Sturgeon in the lower Fraser River in 2019 (44,809 fish) was approximately four percent lower than it was the previous year (2018) and 25% lower than in 2006. Modeling indicates that the continuous, 13-year population decline is being driven mainly by significant reductions in the numbers of juvenile sturgeon entering the population. The complete reports are available on the Society’s website: https://www.frasersturgeon.com/research-for-survival-
Karl English, a senior fisheries scientist with LGL Limited and advisor for the FRSCS, said that the likely reasons for the population decline include: 1) reductions in food supply (including salmon and Pacific Eulachon); 2) reductions and alterations of important habitats for sturgeon and their key prey species; and 3) mortality and physiological stress from in-river fisheries (including net fisheries that target salmon, and potential impacts from the catch-and-release recreational fishery).
Dr. David Robichaud, who chairs the Society’s Science and Technical Committee, said that cutting-edge scientific modeling indicates that at current juvenile recruitment rates the population of White Sturgeon in the lower Fraser will continue to decline over the next 30
years. “Unless actions are taken to seriously and specifically address the likely reasons for the current population decline, the future sustainability of this population of long-lived, ancient fish is in jeopardy,” Robichaud said.
Rick Hansen, founder and current chair of the FRSCS, remains optimistic that the sturgeon population decline can be turned around, and eventually recovered. “The numbers of mature adult fish currently in the population should be sufficient to increase juvenile abundance over the next decade, but only if specific actions are applied now to reduce impacts and improve environmental conditions,” Hansen said.
“With the Society’s team of committed, results-oriented directors, scientists, and program volunteers, plus dedicated representatives from provincial, federal, and First Nations governments, we can and will address the key issues that are suppressing the recovery of
White Sturgeon in the lower Fraser River,” Hansen said. “We have received continuous, generous support from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, and have commitments from local, provincial, federal, and First Nations governments, and commercial, First Nations, and recreational fishers, to support priority actions identified to assist population recovery.”
“White Sturgeon have been here since the time of the dinosaurs and have survived two ice ages. They are the Fraser River’s apex species, supported by a complex biological and ecological web,” Hansen said. “By monitoring the sturgeon population, we are in effect monitoring the health and status of the lower Fraser River ecosystem. Our work has produced a powerful snapshot of the past, present, and future of the White Sturgeon population in the lower Fraser. The science is clear; the time to act is now.”
For more information contact:
Sarah Schreier, Executive Director, FRSCS
Email: email@example.com Phone: 778-322-7345
Photo of adult White Sturgeon being sampled by boat
Sampling an adult White Sturgeon prior to release. Photo: Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society.