April 30, 1997 in Idaho

Official Defends Sturgeon Release

From Staff Reports

The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho’s release of about 1,500 hatchery-raised sturgeon into the Kootenai River is a vital link in a plan to save the endangered species, a federal official says.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Bob Hallock said the 2-year-old fish would be tagged to distinguish them from wild Kootenai River sturgeon. Some also will be outfitted with transmitters to track their movements and monitor growth and survival to guide future recovery actions.

The releases are a part of a 10-year conservation program proposed as part of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s white sturgeon recovery plan, Hallock said. The draft recovery plan is being finalized.

A generous spring runoff figures to help the fish. Runoff forces the Libby Dam to release the maximum amount of water possible, which increases the flow downstream. Downstream flow levels have hurt the sturgeon since the dam was built in 1972.

The sturgeon conservation program is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, the federal energy wholesaler for the Northwest.

The program calls for wild, adult white sturgeon from the Kootenai River to be captured each spring for the next 10 years and brought to the tribe’s hatchery for spawning, then released back into the river unharmed.

With help from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, four female white sturgeon already have been brought to the hatchery this year. The tribe plans to collect up to 10 males this spring to spawn with the four females.

The Kootenai Tribe has been rearing white sturgeon since 1991 at the small hatchery on the tribal mission site. More than 300 hatcheryreared juvenile sturgeon were released for experimental purposes in 1992 and 1994.

Many of those fish have since been recaptured, Hallock said, providing new information on the movements, growth and survival of juvenile fish in the Kootenai River and Kootenay Lake. , DataTimes

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