The lower Columbia River has enough sturgeon. But other places don’t, and the Abernathy Creek hatchery is aiming to help fill the void.
Beginning next year, state biologists will plant white sturgeon from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hatchery in the Columbia River in Eastern Washington, where the fish are facing extinction.
Raising hatchery sturgeon is tried and true. Oregon plants sturgeon in the upper Willamette River, and the Russian caviar industry relies on hatcheries. California has four sturgeon hatcheries, and a couple are in Idaho, where the Kootenai sturgeon is endangered.
“They are an excellent aquaculture species,” said Brian Hickson, the biologist in charge of the project at the Abernathy station, which also raises about 1.5 million fall chinook salmon annually.
Female sturgeon don’t spawn until they’re 20 to 25 years old and about 6 feet long. The Abernathy hatchery borrows adult sturgeon for brood stock from a private hatchery in Troutdale, Ore.
The eggs are delivered surgically.
“We take her out in a stretcher, make an incision in her belly, take the eggs and sew her back up,” Hickson said. The eggs are fertilized in a bowl and stirred with river silt so they don’t clump together.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.