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Number Of Prehistoric Fish Drops Sharply In B.c. River


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Number of prehistoric fish drops sharply in B.C. river

CBC News - 8/8/2006

The population of B.C.'s largest freshwater fish — the endangered white sturgeon — has declined by more than a fifth over the past two years in the Lower Fraser River, researchers say.

The white sturgeon are prehistoric survivors, dating back to the time of the dinosaurs about 200 million years ago. They can live about 100 years and grow up to six metres in length.

In British Columbia, they were almost fished out a century ago, but their numbers have grown since then until 2004, when more than 60,000 white sturgeon were swimming between Chilliwack and the mouth of the Fraser.

But then the trend was reversed. Craig Orr of Watershed Watch Salmon Society said the same waterways now contain about 49,000 white sturgeon.

"That's a decline of 21 per cent over the last two years, which is quite troubling because there had been a bit of an increase in recent years."

Orr says the decline is happening among smaller juvenile sturgeon that are small and spiny — because they are %%%%%ly enough to get caught up in salmon fishermen's nets.

"They seem to be vulnerable especially for nets set for salmon. That seems to be where a lot of the mortality is, but it's not entirely related to that," he said.

"There is also a lower growth rate, probably an indication of poor ecosystem health."

Sturgeon are the world's longest living fish.

Most of the sturgeon caught and released these days are 90 to 120 centimetres in length, with big ones up 270 centimetres long.

Orr said that 100 years ago, before it was overfished, the river contained monster sturgeons up to six metres long.

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