Species Profile

White Sturgeon Upper Columbia River population

Scientific Name: Acipenser transmontanus
Taxonomy Group: Fishes
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2012
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A3bc+4bc; C1+2a(ii); E
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This large-bodied fish occurs at a small number of locations (5) in the upper Columbia River. The species has declined considerably over the last century, to fewer than 850 adults, owing to habitat fragmentation and degradation, and recruitment failure. Modeling predicts an 80% chance of extinction of the population within the next two generations.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: The species was considered a single unit and designated Special Concern in April 1990. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in November 2003. Split into four populations in November 2012. The Upper Columbia River population was designated Endangered in November 2012.
SARA Status: Schedule 3, No Status - (SARA Schedule 1 provisions do not apply)
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd):

Schedule 3 - No Status

Individuals of this species may be protected under Schedule 1 under another name; for more information see Schedule 1, the A-Z Species List, or if applicable, the Related Species table below.

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Related Species

Species COSEWIC
Status
SARA
Status
White Sturgeon Non-active Special Concern
White Sturgeon Non-active Endangered
White Sturgeon Non-active Endangered
White Sturgeon Non-active Endangered

Quick Links: | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Protection

Federal Protection

Species that have been designated at risk by COSEWIC since the Species at Risk Act (SARA) was written must be added to Schedule 1 through a regulatory amendment. Information on this procedure is available in the Assessment section. If White Sturgeon, Upper Columbia River population, is added to Schedule 1, it will benefit from the protections afforded by SARA. More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

52 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the White Sturgeon Acipenser transmontanus in Canada (2013-11-13)

    Sturgeons are part of an ancient lineage of ray-finned fishes. Most of their internal skeleton (including the skull) is composed of cartilage; however, there are superficial bones on the surface of the head and several distinct rows of diamond-shaped bony projections (scutes) on the body. Sturgeons have conspicuous barbels on their snouts. Two species occur along the Pacific Coast of Canada: the Green Sturgeon, Acipenser medirostris, and the White Sturgeon, Acipenser transmontanus. They are distinguished by colour: the lower flanks are greenish in the Green Sturgeon and dark grey shading into white in the White Sturgeon. Usually there is a dark stripe along the ventral midline of the Green Sturgeon, whereas the ventral surface of the White Sturgeon is white. Although the White Sturgeon is primarily a freshwater species, some individuals enter the sea. In contrast, in Canada, the Green Sturgeon is primarily a marine fish but occasionally occurs in estuaries and the tidal areas of large rivers. The White Sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in Canada, and is the focus of an important recreational fishery in the Lower Fraser River, British Columbia (BC).

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - White Sturgeon, Upper Columbia River population (2013-12-18)

    This large-bodied fish occurs at a small number of locations (5) in the upper Columbia River. The species has declined considerably over the last century, to fewer than 850 adults, owing to habitat fragmentation and degradation, and recruitment failure. Modeling predicts an 80% chance of extinction of the population within the next two generations.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report – 2012-2013 (2013-09-24)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2012 to September 2013) from November 25 to November 30, 2012 and from April 28 to May 3, 2013. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 73 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 2 Endangered: 28 Threatened: 19 Special Concern: 19 Data Deficient: 4 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 73 Of the 73 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 50 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#16-PPAC-00008), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2016-03-21)

    Columbia Power Corporation will retrieve deceased White Sturgeon discovered in the Upper Columbia River and conduct surficial examination to gain basic biological and life history information, and transport deceased individuals of the species to a laboratory permitted under the Species at Risk Act for further examination and insights. These activities support recovery of this species by assisting government agencies collect data on the species and insights into causes of mortality.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#18-HPAC-00528), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2018-09-04)

    The activity involves active suppression of invasive Northern Pike in the Columbia River and Kootenay River, which will include targeted gill-netting and electrofishing. The nets will be soaked for 4 hours and electrofishing will occur in shallow water (approximately 3m) during the day. Two of the four sites are within the distribution range for White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus), while the other two sites are within identified Critical Habitat for White Sturgeon. Incidental capture and handling of White Sturgeon is possible, although the suppression efforts are targeting invasive Northern Pike.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#18-HPAC-00878), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2018-11-02)

    The activity involves active suppression of invasive Northern Pike in the Columbia River and Kootenay River, which will include targeted gill-netting and electrofishing. The nets will be soaked for 4 hours and electrofishing will occur in shallow water (approximately 3m) during the day. Two of the four sites are within the distribution range for White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus), while the other two sites are identified Critical Habitat for White Sturgeon. Incidental capture and handling of White Sturgeon is possible as part of the suppression efforts for invasive Northern Pike.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#18-HPAC-00958 ), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2019-09-01)

    The activity is fish sampling related to the Middle Columbia River Fish Population Indexing Program between the Revelstoke Dam and the Illecillewaet River confluence. The main objective of this study is to monitor changes in abundance, growth, diversity, and distribution of fish downstream of the dam. This index program has been conducted annually since 2001. Electrofishing will be the method used to conduct the fish surveys. There is potential for incidental capture of White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) by means of electrofishing while conducting the survey between Revelstoke Dame and Illecillewaet River confluence. The majority of the survey area is within the distribution range of White Sturgeon. A small portion of the survey area is within identified Critical Habitat for White Sturgeon.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#19-HPAC-00031), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2019-04-15)

    The activity involves active suppression of invasive Northern Pike in the Columbia River by include targeted gill-netting and electrofishing. The nets will be soaked for 4 hours and electrofishing will occur in shallow water (approximately 3m) during the day. The active suppression will occur in the Robson Reach of the Columbia River which is identified Critical Habitat for White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus). Incidental capture and handling of White Sturgeon is possible as part of the suppression efforts for invasive Northern Pike, but White Sturgeon will not be targeted.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#19-PPAC-00013), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2019-05-20)

    Activities consist of the following at Location 1 (Mid-Columbia River: Revelstoke Dam to Hugh L. Keenleyside Dam (Arrow Lakes Reservoir including Revelstoke Reach) and Location 2 (Lower Columbia River: Hugh L. Keenleyside Dam to the Canada/US international border, including the Kootenay River portion from Brilliant Dam to its confluence with the Columbia River): i. Stock Assessment (at Location 2): Capture of wild and hatchery-origin White Sturgeon (adults and juveniles) for collection of basic biological and stock assessment information. ii. Sex and Maturity (at Location 2): For up to 50 fish captured in activity "i)" for both the spring and fall sampling sessions, determine sex, stage of maturity, and spawning periodicity of wild White Sturgeon, and determine the previous three items in addition to age at first maturity for hatchery origin White Sturgeon. Methods employed may include: ultrasound, endoscopy (otoscope and endoscope), measurement of plasma sex steroids through blood sampling, histological analysis of gonadal tissue collected by biopsy. iii. Movement and Habitat Use (at Location 2): Utilize acoustic transmitters to inform movement and habitat use of White Sturgeon in spawning condition or hatchery-origin juveniles. Acoustic transmitters will be applied to up to 50 hatchery-origin juveniles and 5 adults. iv. Juvenile Growth and Survival (at Location 1 and 2): Capture of wild and hatchery origin juveniles and collection of growth and survival data via the following methods: acoustic transmitters applied previously and in activity "iii)"), gastric lavage (diet analysis on up to 50 fish), genetic analysis of fin clips and ageing analysis of pectoral fin rays on every wild fish captured. v. Spawn Monitoring and Egg/Larvae Collection (at Location 1 and 2): Conduct the following to confirm spawn timing and to contribute to the conservation aquaculture program: collect fertilized embryos using egg collection mats deployed for up to 48-hour sets; collect larvae using drift nets deployed for up to 24-hour sets; transfer embryos and larvae captured in Location 2 to streamside incubation site for up to 7 days from hatching prior to preparation for transfer to hatchery facilities for rearing; transfer embryos collected at Location 1 to incubation trays until embryos have hatched; at Location 1, larvae captured and larvae upon completion of hatching in incubation trays will directly be prepared for transfer to hatchery facilities for rearing; dead eggs or larvae collected will be preserved.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#20-HPAC-00189 ), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2020-09-29)

    The activity involves fish population sampling as part of an annual Lower Columbia River fish indexing survey. Sampling will be conducted at night via boat electroshocking in nearshore sections of the Lower Columbia River downstream of the Hugh L. Keenleyside Dam to the United States Border, as well as in the Kootenay River downstream of the Brilliant Dam. Sampling is designed to target Mountain Whitefish, Rainbow Trout and Walleye. White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) individuals of the Upper Columbia River population (Endangered) may be incidentally captured during sampling. If any White Sturgeon individuals are electroshocked, they may be captured and handled to collect fish measurement data. White Sturgeon will be released into the same area from which they are captured and in a manner so as to avoid recapture. The sampling program will not impact White Sturgeon critical habitat. Destruction of critical habitat is not permitted.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#20-HPAC-01204 ), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2021-01-01)

    The activity involves the isolation and gradual dewatering of a draft tube at the Brilliant Dam Expansion Project during a planned power outage to facilitate dam maintenance. Stop logs will be deployed at the exit of the draft tube within 24 hours of shut down to prevent fish entry. Dewatering will begin after stop logs have been installed. A fish salvage will be conducted, and any White Sturgeon that entered the draft tube prior to the deployment of stop logs will be captured and relocated downstream of the dam facility in the Kootenay River. The project site is located upstream of White Sturgeon critical habitat, within the footprint of dam infrastructure.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#20-PPAC-00003 ), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2020-03-01)

    Retrieval of White Sturgeon carcasses from the Columbia or Kootenay river systems; transport of the carcasses to a Fisheries and Oceans Canada Fishery Officer or to an authorized animal health laboratory; and, disposal of the carcasses if so directed by a Fisheries and Oceans Canada Fishery Officer.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#20-PPAC-00008 ), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2020-05-15)

    Activities are valid in the following locations: 1. Mid Columbia River: Revelstoke Dam to Hugh L. Keenleyside Dam (Arrow Lakes Reservoir including Revelstoke Reach). 2. Lower Columbia River: Hugh L. Keenleyside Dam to the Canada/US international border (includes the Kootenay River from Brilliant Dam to its confluence with the Columbia River). The activities authorized by this permit consist of: A) Capture of wild and hatchery-origin adult White Sturgeon via setlines, and capture of wild and hatchery-origin juvenile White Sturgeon via setlines, angling, and gill nets. All fish captured will be measured for length and weight. All fish that are untagged/unmarked upon capture will have small DNA tissue samples removed (dorsal fin clip) and be marked (scute removal and insertion of a PIT tag). B) For a maximum of 100 wild and hatchery origin fish captured in activity A, determine sex, stage of maturity, age at first maturity, and spawning periodicity. Methods employed may include: ultrasound; endoscopy (otoscope and endoscope); measurement of plasma sex steroids through blood sampling; and histological analysis of gonadal tissue collected by biopsy. C) For a maximum of 5 adult fish captured in activity A, surgically implant acoustic transmitters to inform movement and habitat use of White Sturgeon in spawning condition. D) For a maximum of 50 hatchery-origin juveniles captured in activity A, conduct non-lethal gastric lavage diet analysis. E) For a maximum of 50 juveniles captured in activity A, remove a pectoral fin ray section for aging analysis. F) Recovery from handling of White Sturgeon in activities A-F, followed by release. G) Conduct the following to confirm spawn timing and to contribute to the conservation aquaculture program: collect fertilized embryos using egg collection mats; collect larvae using drift nets; transfer embryos and larvae to streamside incubation site for hatching and rearing. Dead eggs or larvae collected will be preserved.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#20-PPAC-00009 ), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2020-05-01)

    The activities authorized by this permit consist of: a) Incidental capture of White Sturgeon (Upper Columbia River population) in gillnets, as part of a suppression effort for invasive Northern Pike. b) Incidental electroshocking of White Sturgeon (Upper Columbia River population), as part of a suppression effort for invasive Northern Pike. c) Recovery from handling of White Sturgeon in activities a) and b), followed by release.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#20-PPAC-00010 ), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2020-04-24)

    The activities authorized by this permit consist of: a) Targeted capture of White Sturgeon (Upper Columbia River population) using angling and set lines in an effort to relocate distressed fish within Arrow Lakes Generating Station. b) Recovery of White Sturgeon from handling in activity a) in an aerated sturgeon box followed by release into the wild.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#20-PPAC-00026 ), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2021-02-15)

    The activities authorized by this permit consist of: a) Rearing hatchery sourced White Sturgeon to: i. Test sub-chronic toxicity of contaminants on up to 42 hatchery-origin juvenile Nechako River White Sturgeon (acquired through 16-PPAC-00002; currently in possession of University of Saskatchewan) through chemical exposure for a maximum time of 28 days. ii. Test in-vitro toxicity of contaminants on the tissues of up to 5 hatchery-origin juvenile Upper Columbia River White Sturgeon (acquired through 2013-SAR-305; currently in possession of University of Saskatchewan) through chemical exposure for a maximum of 48 hours. iii. Conduct morphological and molecular analyses on preserved sturgeon tissues collected from activities a(i) and a(ii). b) Euthanizing all hatchery-sourced White Sturgeon upon completion of studies specified in activity a(i), and prior to conducting activities a(ii) and a(iii). All fish currently in possession and acquired under permits 2013-SAR-305 and 16-PPAC-00002 must be euthanized no later than November 30, 2021 and January 31, 2022, respectively.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#21-PPAC-00017 ), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2021-05-01)

    a) Capture, using setlines, wild and hatchery-origin adult White Sturgeon annually for mark-recapture study. Implant annually up to 5 adult White Sturgeon with radio or acoustic transmitters to track their movements and behaviour. All White Sturgeon captured will be assessed (i.e., length, weight, health) and scanned for PIT tags. Previously uncaptured fish will be PIT tagged and fin clipped for genetic sampling. b) Capture, using angling, gillnets and setlines, wild and hatchery-origin juvenile White Sturgeon annually for mark-recapture study. All White Sturgeon captured will be assessed (i.e., length, weight, health) and scanned for PIT tags. Previously uncaptured fish will be PIT tagged, fin clipped for genetic sampling, and up to 50 fish annually will have pectoral fin ray section removed for ageing and microchemistry analysis. c) Diet sampling, using gastric lavage technique, will be completed on up to 50 hatchery-origin fish captured in Activity b, annually, to determine prey preferences. d) Determine sex, stage of maturity, age at first maturity, and spawning periodicity, for up to 100 wild and hatchery-origin (?120cm) fish captured in Activities a & b. Sampling methods employed may include ultrasound, endoscopy (otoscope and endoscope), measurement of plasma sex steroids through blood sampling, and histological analysis of gonadal tissues. e) Capture, using passive egg mat and drift net sampling techniques, wild egg and larval White Sturgeon to confirm spawn timing and distribution, as well as to contribute to the conservation aquaculture program. Captured eggs and larvae will be transported to the streamside incubation site for hatching and rearing. Dead eggs or larvae collected will be preserved for future genetic analysis.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-16-HPAC-00247), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2016-04-16)

    Fish sampling for the purpose of monitoring juvenile Northern Pike recruitment and habitat use in the Lower Columbia River system. Sampling will occur within shallow weedy areas in Robson Reach downstream of the Hugh Keenleyside Dam, within the Kootenay River Oxbow and near Zuckerburg Island. Although not the target species, White Sturgeon (Upper Columbia River Population) may be incidentally captured during sampling for Northern Pike. A SARA permit was issued for the capture and handling of White Sturgeon. Captured White Sturgeon previously tagged with PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tags will be handled for the purpose of tag scanning and fish measurement.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-16-HPAC-00425), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2016-05-01)

    Fish collection and tagging of pre-spawn Northern Pike to determine species distribution and spawning habitat in the Lower Columbia River. Fish collection will occur in Robson Reach downstream of the Hugh Keenleyside Dam and in the Fort Shepard Area near Beaver Creek and the Waneta Dam. As White Sturgeon are present within these reaches of the Columbia River, the incidental capture of White Sturgeon during targeted sampling for Northern Pike may occur. A SARA permit was issued for capture and handling of White Sturgeon caught as by-catch during targeted sampling for Northern Pike.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-16-HPAC-00829), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2016-08-08)

    Fish sampling for the purpose of monitoring juvenile Northern Pike recruitment and habitat use in the Lower Columbia River system. Sampling will occur within shallow weedy areas in Robson Reach downstream of the Hugh Keenleyside Dam, within the Kootenay River Oxbow and near Zuckerburg Island. Although not the target species, White Sturgeon (Upper Columbia River Population) may be incidentally captured during sampling for Northern Pike. A SARA permit was issued for the capture and handling of White Sturgeon. Captured White Sturgeon previously tagged with PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tags will be handled for the purpose of tag scanning and fish measurement.
  • >> See more Permits and Related Agreements documents

Critical Habitat Orders

  • Critical Habitat of the White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) Upper Columbia River Population Order (2016-05-18)

    Whereas the White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) Upper Columbia River population is a wildlife species that is listed as an endangered species in Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act; Whereas the recovery strategy that identified the critical habitat of that species has been included in the Species at Risk Public Registry; And whereas no portion of the critical habitat of that species that is specified in the annexed Order is in a place referred to in subsection 58(2) of that Act; Therefore, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, pursuant to subsections 58(4) and (5) of the Species at Risk Act, makes the annexed Critical Habitat of the White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) Upper Columbia River Population Order.
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