Volunteers rescue massive sturgeon after it was stranded by receding B.C. flood waters

A hard slog of two kilometres, some of it over land, carrying a 45 kilogram fish

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While rescuers and volunteers were working to exhaustion to restore order to farms and properties in the Fraser Valley, two members of a local fishing association were tirelessly hauling a massive white sturgeon in a sling through thigh-deep water, alternately portaging it over three stretches of dry land, to return it home. It had been swept out of the Fraser River and then stranded in a shallow pool of water as the flood receded.

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The fish measured two metres in length, had an 81-cm circumference and weighed 45 kilograms.

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According to the CBC , the sturgeon was first seen by a helicopter crew flying near B.C.’s Herrling Island, between Hope and Agassiz, on Thursday. They sent video to the Fraser Valley Angling Guides Association , who then enlisted members Tyler Buck and Jay Gibson “on a catch-and-release mission like no other.”

Professional sturgeon guides, they had been in the area “doing debris collection and picking up garbage … when the call came in,” said Kevin Estrada, FVAGA director. “They were obviously very happy they could help out in any way.”

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The duo helped not only the fish but, along with other members and organizations, had been lending assistance to the affected communities and the watershed by helping evacuate people, doing LifeLab deliveries, working as an emergency medical taxi service, as well as doing sandbagging and pump control.

This sturgeon was a young adult, at perhaps 25 years of age — they can grow to 3.5 metres and in good conditions can live 100 or more years. Sturgeon are among the world’s oldest marine species, with a fossil record going back 200 million years, and have kept many of their features largely unchanged. It has no scales and a body that appears bony, even though it is mostly made up of cartilege. They are bottom feeders, locating food by dragging four sensory barbels and sucking up small marine life from the riverbed. Their main habitat is in river deltas such as the Fraser’s but they are equally able to survive in saltwater.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has declared 85 per cent of the 27 species of sturgeon at risk of extinction, due to habitat destruction, pollution and overfishing (mainly for its very valuable roe).

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