Proceedings of the 2006 Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Coordination Meeting

Sturgeon Law Enforcement Issues Panel Discussion

Presenters & Panelists: Fred Hnytka (DFO Canada), Greg Drogowski (Michigan DNR), Todd Schaller (Wisconsin DNR), Mike Kitt (Wisconsin DNR), Mary Burnham Curtis (USFWS), Craig Tabor (USFWS), Robert Luke (DFO Canada), and Don Waukechon (Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin)

Moderators: Lloyd Mohr (Ontario MNR) and Tom Pratt (DFO Canada)

A group of eight panelists having various expertise with law enforcement related issues and representing numerous resource agencies provided answers (A) and comments (C) to questions (Q) and comments (C) made by meeting participants. Some of the panelists provided presentations prior to the Panel Discussion. Abstracts for those presentations are provided above under oral presentations for the Lake Sturgeon Legal Issues Section.

Q: Can Todd and Greg comment on the demographics of their respective fisheries?

A: (Todd Schaller) From the Lake Winnebago spearing standpoint primarily localized activity, although in the past probably ten years we’ve seen a few people coming in from outside the area because of a change in licenses that we went through. It used to be a specific sturgeon tag that you purchased that was included in a bundle package of licenses and when that occurred we started to see people from other parts of Wisconsin coming over and participating that had that [type of] tag. But it is primarily local. We do have some non-resident activity most of which comes out of Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota. A lot of our non-residents were probably born and raised in Wisconsin but moved away for college or jobs and are just returning for the social aspect.

A: (Greg Drogowski) In Michigan the illegal take is or was, for a vast majority local. We did have some from other parts of the state and the winter spear fishing season is growing in popularity. I think it started out more local but now is about 50/50 with the non-local aspect growing all of the time.

Q: (Amy Welsh) For the Species at Risk Act what criteria are used for the identification of the designateable units (DU) or how did you determine what a DU is as it is listed in the COSEWIC Listing?

A: (Fred Hnytka) I think COSEWIC based it on genetic analysis. Between last April when they first examined the status report with certain DUs, then went back to the geneticists and asked them to do some sort of analysis to look at the genetic differentiation amongst stocks. To the best of my knowledge it was done on that basis.

A: (Bill Franzin -DFO)There are a combination of factors involved in a DU. COSEWIC has the water types of Canada broken up into aquatic eco-zones which are basically the major watersheds, [which are used] in combination with where the species is located within Canada and where the genetics distinguishes major differences between groups. So with the capabilities that we have, genetics is a big factor.

Q: (Dan Sheill) From time to time agencies like to publicize successes and accomplishments and it is done in the media, like news papers for instance, stating that for the first time in decades we have discovered lake sturgeon spawning in some body of water, and it will have a map showing where the site is located. From an enforcement stand point, this concerns me. What this is doing is advertising exactly where to go for people that are looking for sturgeon. People that were probably not tuned in that sturgeon were starting to come back in certain areas are now going to go out there and specifically harvest, and we have given them the exact location and have basically said that the numbers are coming back and everything is basically “good to go” [due to the] successes we have made. I know we want to be public relations orientated and make sure the public is aware of our accomplishments. Can I get some feedback from the biologists and the enforcement group if this is something that you are all aware of and if this concerns you?

Q: (Lloyd Mohr) I know the conservation officers in our office have raised the same question. We are in the age of the internet and we are encouraged to share information and data on a daily basis to provide the public with information as to what we are doing. Is this a concern to the law enforcement group that we provide a lot of information or that we are encouraged to provide a lot of information?

A: It is part of the program. Without PR we won’t get the support and we won’t get funding. The public needs to know what we are doing out there. We know it is necessary and it works together; there are specific instances where we can use the media or public awareness to protect the resources. I think there are also benefits where not only are you making people aware who might be concerned form an illegal harvest but you are also making people aware from a very concerned aspect. So I think both sides are becoming aware of this so you might be telling the bad groups where the fish are but you’re also telling that good person that keeps an eye on these fish.

C: (Henry Quinlan) As biologists we often are alerted to an area or location by locals because they often know about these places long before we do. So potential for illegal activity is already there and these articles in news papers are not likely news to those people. Word spreads long before we know, certainly on a local level, but maybe not on a state wide level. It is something I think we all struggle with.

C: (Rob Elliott) Can we provide a few moments for those individuals on the panel that did not speak during the presentation period a few moments to tell a little bit about the work that they do and the jurisdictions that they represent?

C: (Robert Luke) I’m stationed out of or Regional Headquarters out of Winnipeg, MB. The Region I work is called Central and Arctic which includes Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. As a federal fisheries officer we can be assigned to go anywhere in Canada from the 200 limit on the east coast to the 200 mile limit on the west coast and from the North Pole to the border of United States. The position I am in now is working with the new Species at Risk legislation but I’m still a fisheries officer as well as a fish habitat inspector. I work within a number of different regulatory issues and legislation.

Q: (Lloyd Mohr) How much time in the last five years have you spent looking at lake sturgeon?

A: (Robert Luke) The lake sturgeon work that you are working on here is new to me.

C: (Don Walkashaw) I’m a conservation officer from the Menominee Tribe. Most of the sturgeon work is dealing with issuing citations. We started a lake sturgeon reintroduction program in 1994 so our program is fairly new and we are learning about it too.

Q: (Lloyd Mohr) How much time is spent for you and your colleagues working on lake sturgeon?

A: (Don Walkashaw) Probably around 25% of all of our official duties.

C: (Craig Tabor) I’m a special agent with the US Fish and Wildlife Service stationed in Ann Arbor Michigan. I supervise a group of agents and our area is all of Michigan and Ohio. We are pretty thinly spread as has been stated by others. With lake sturgeon not being a Federally listed species the bulk of the on the ground enforcement is being done by the states and provinces. Our opportunity to become involved has mostly to do with interstate and international trade. Anticipating your question, my purpose in being here is primarily to learn more about the species. I am fairly new to the Midwest and the last five or six months have been sort of like taking a drink from a fire hose. We have gotten some case work done in the last couple of years, some by the states and some by the Service, and none of it suggests that there is a significant illegal market for lake sturgeon roe or meat. However, we do realize that the potential for exploitation is certainly there and may increase with the recent ban on Asian and Eurasian Imports.

C: (Lloyd Mohr) I brought the same question to the attention of our law enforcement agents in my office in Ontario and unfortunately they also spend very little time on lake sturgeon unless it is some other problem and it has been brought to their attention, then they will devote time and energy to the problem. I see a lot of contrast here and that some of the very high profile lake and river systems tend to get a lot of coverage and yet the rest of the Great Lakes Systems tend not to. I just wanted to open that up and get peoples thoughts on that. Is there something that we as researches and biologists could be doing better to provide more impetus to your managers to put more emphasis on lake sturgeon, if it is required?

A: (Todd Schaller) The nature of the beast is that it takes a high amount of efforts for often times very little return and we have so many other pressing things. Until somebody brings it to your attention, it is then that you realize it is important. You as fisheries managers, I would think, would have a good relationship with your law enforcement people. If you see problems and trends, let them know and work closely with them because they are, many times, going to have to force themselves to work on this.

A: In the Oshkosh local area when we had a license increase we were able to get the license dollars, the spearing licenses dollars, dedicated specifically to lake sturgeon work on the Lake Winnebago System. So you figure a $20 tag with 8000 tags, you do the math. That really gives us (law enforcement, and Ron Bruch, our lake sturgeon biologist) a tool and the resource that a lot of you don’t have access to, allowing us to do some things that other can’t. How did we get that rule change made there? It was because of the public involvement. It was not us, it was not the DNR, that went to the legislature. It was the people who support the lake sturgeon spearing in that particular part of the state.

C: (Robert Luke) Just a clarification, I’m not the only one that deals with fisheries. Like our counterparts in the US, there are provincial agency conservation protection officers that have their own provincial legislation where they do work with sturgeon. Some of the Provinces have sport fisheries that catch and release. There is also a limited commercial fisheries that deal with sturgeon. Recently, the new Species at Risk legislation, and the potential listing the Lake Sturgeon as an endangered species, has brought this species forward to the national level. This has brought lake sturgeon into a more public spotlight.

C: (Fred Hnytka) From the SARA (Species at Risk Act) perspective, if sturgeon gets listed by SARA, as with each species, it will get high attention. With high attention comes a lot of resources, and with resources comes greater public attention and greater public education. With my experience with other species, it has probably been one of the most useful parts of SARA.

Q: In Missouri, our largest private fish producer in the state is doing some aquaculture in some private lakes. Years ago he actually came to our agency and volunteered to raise lake sturgeon for our stocking program. It seemed that this individual was trying to determine if he could eventually raise a private stock of lake sturgeon. To my knowledge, there are no private stocks of lake sturgeon out there. My question is, do any of you know of where he was likely to get those fish and if there is a legal network for him to do that in the United States or Canada?

A: (Fred Hnytka) There is only one that I am aware of and that is the Rainy River System. I think the First Nation there raises the lake sturgeon and export them. That is the only source that I know of.

Q: (Brenda Arshambo) My question is about management plans. I know Michigan is reviewing their Lake Sturgeon Rehabilitation Strategy. With regards to that on a local, state and regional level, is there any effort to increase or double the fines for illegal harvest as it relates to caviar supply and demand?

A: (Greg Drogowski) In Michigan, not that I am aware of as far as increasing fines and penalties.

A: (Robert Luke) Under the Species at Risk legislation, the fines in Canada are potentially very heavy with summary conviction up to $300,000 dollars for the first offence for an individual. For corporate (other than non-profit), summary conviction fines are not more than $300,000 dollars.. For an indictable offence, fines can be upwards of a $1,000,000. For those fish that are cut up, every piece can be viewed as a violation. And if you are caught a second time, the fines can be double. The fines are heavy under the Canadian legislation, but again, the legislation is fairly new. With other fish species some of the fines within the last year and a half have ranged from a low of $5,000 to the highest of $80,000 for the possession and the sale of Species at Risk.

A: (Craig Tabor) At the federal level in the US, it will be on a case by case basis and will depend on the severity of the offence and how it is charged. Depending on the offence it could be indictable as a felony and penalties could range widely. There could be civil restitution directed toward the victim state in addition to criminal penalties. If it is a commercial violation, depending on the dollar amount involved, penalty amounts can quickly escalate in the sentencing guidelines that enter into the range where there is mandatory time served. So it depends, but there is the possibility for some quite severe penalties in the US as well.

Q: (Marty Holtgren) As sort of an extension to Brenda’s question: Mary, you gave us a couple of examples in your presentation about illegal harvest and non-compliance issues, and you seemed disappointed that some of the fines seemed to be very small. I know many of us in this room have also read about caviar where they gave examples of some pretty severe issues that took place but the fines levied seemed entirely insignificant to what the crime was. You have talked about the fines that are on the books that you could charge and it certainly doesn’t seem like those are the fines that are actually levied. How big of an issue do you see this being and what routes can be taken to make sure the fines or the non-compliance issues are taken more seriously?

A: (Mary Burnham Curtis) The fact that the fines are so low probably just reflects that historically it has not seemed important to the states, keeping in mind that the states are primarily responsible for prosecuting. I know there is an ongoing case between Oregon and Washington where they have sixty defendants but have moved through only two or three. And in fact, we are waiting to prosecute once the state finishes and I am not sure what they are going to go after. I do know that at the federal level, like Craig said, the number of fish that are involved forms the penalty. So that is what we are interested in looking at the individual identification because that helps with the prosecution and the issuing of fines. At the individual level, for the individuals that were caught at Sacramento, I think the fines were a paltry sum. This woman was walking around with $1,200 dollars in cash in her pocket and she bought the roe from seven individual female fish with less than $1,200 dollars, and then turned around and sold the roe and probably made $10,000 dollars, and was fined $1,000 dollars. So the monetary fine was insignificant and her jail time was completely reduced. There is really no legal, healthy deterrent. As this starts to become a real problem, they are actually looking at introduction of organized crime. That is when stuff is really going to hit the fan, because the Eastern European organized crime is known to be infiltrating part of this black market and ultimately that is where the real crimes are going to come from.

Q: (Tim Purdy) I have a question for Robert. If the local Ministry of Natural Resources deems that there is a sustainable population of lake sturgeon in Lake Huron where there is currently the small commercial harvest and where we are doing the work with lake sturgeon, if it gets listed as threatened, how can we continue to do our work or is there a way to get them delisted for that area?

A: (Robert Luke) Once it is listed, there is still a process of regulating recovery in the management plan. If that specific area that you are working or have a fish quota in is not the problem area, it can be identified in this recovery strategy saying that this area does not or will not cause any problems with the recovery of this stock. It is possible to say that a certain section of river is not affected. Once it is in that document, then there are no prohibitions against the area. The second part of that is if OMNR managed that fishery as they have previously been licensing it, under the act could they continue to permit it. Again because this legislation is so new and there is no framework or agreements in place, these things still need to be worked out, but there are avenues. If it is determined that the stock is at a state that needs to be recovered, then things could go the other way with the commercial fishery.

Q: (Tim Purdy) OK two things what takes precedence, the federal people or the provincial people?

A: (Robert Luke) Under the Species at Risk Legislation, and as I stated in the presentation, all aquatic species are the responsibility of the Fisheries Minister. So, if lake sturgeon are listed federally, they would be a federal responsibility, but that responsibility can be handed down to the province.

Q: (Tim Purdy) Will the aboriginal fishery be dealt with the same way as the current commercial fishery of Lake Huron?

A: (Robert Luke) I can’t say how it is going to be dealt with, but again, when it comes to the specifics, there is going to be consultation. This legislation now is different from most legislation where we now have to consult with the users, stakeholders, aboriginal peoples. For any work being done with any listed species, we have to consult before any decision is made, and it will go up to the minister to make the decision as to how and what action is to be taken.

A: (Fred Hnytka) As you are aware, there are constitutional issues that relate to First Nations fisheries, and the federal government is obliged to consult with First Nations on fisheries issues. They are also obliged to consult if there is the likelihood of infringement of a treaty right, and those issues are what we need to address during that consultation period. Again this woud indicate that we would need an extended consultation period for the lake sturgeon.

Q: (James Boase) How will these COSEWIC changes affect the ability of researchers to conduct their research in locations like the Detroit and St. Clair rivers that are shared by both the US and Canada?

A: (Fred Hnytka) The answer to that is maybe. As before, there would have to be a permit issued to conduct scientific research for work related to the recovery of a species. At this current point, it would have to be obtained from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. However, at the same time we are trying to negotiate agreements with the provinces whereby the provinces would be able to issue those permits - but we are not at that point yet.

C: (Don Walkashaw) I work on a federal reservation and work with the US Fish and Wildlife Agents and we turn cases over to them in their office in Milwaukee. It is there that they determine if they will move forward, and it seems to be on a case by case basis. The way that things are going now, they seem to have the attitude that other things are more important. So it is hard to get any convictions going against these individuals.

Q: Do you have a target for recovery and if so how will you know when it is achieved?

A: (Fred Hnytka) We are a little ways from that at this time. Again, remember the species is not yet listed and that will not be determined until 2009 at the earliest. Somewhere between now and then we will be looking at a recovery potential assessment for the species. There may be a number of things that we will be able to do to develop a recovery target.

Q: Do you have tributaries to the St. Lawrence now that have naturally spawning sturgeon?

A: (Fred Hnytka) I actually do not know that.

A: (Lloyd Mohr) The answer to that is yes, there is actually a lot of natural reproduction that comes through the St Lawrence System at this time.

Q: I am asking the question because in New York we have been coordinating with Canadian firms to collect eggs artificially using hormones to induce egg release for stocking purposes. I work with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and we just went through the Joint Status Review for the American Eel on both sides of the river and we had great coordination. I was wondering if we are going to be doing a similar joint effort with lake sturgeon on the Recovery Plan?

A: (Fred Hnytka) I think that would likely be the case. Over the near future I would guess that we would continue to forge those relationships with our American counterparts in terms of developing various recovery plans. Lake sturgeon are found in much of the international waters and because of that, we would solicit help from our American counterparts in any recovery plans.. With some of the other species that I have worked with in the past, the short jaw cisco for instance, we worked closely with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the USGS for the expertise and other responsible jurisdictions as well.

Q: If lake sturgeon are listed, and given that there are pretty severe penalties for take infractions, do you think that will provide sufficient deterrent to move illegal activity to the US side of the border?

A: (Greg Drogowski) I guess it would depend on how much illegal demand there would be for sturgeon and the price that it would bring. It is going to be so new to Canada to do the enforcement on this. Maybe somewhere down the road, yes, but I can also foresee the regulatory end of this in the US also getting to a point that the more poaching becomes public in the US, the more the public will demand that the fines in the US change.

Q: (Lloyd Mohr) How much illegal lake sturgeon activity do you think there is, and how much of a concern should it in fact be? Remember that most of the US talks this morning were about poaching and illegal fishing activity from a recreational fishing standpoint (for example: fishing without a license or keeping a fish that is undersize), not from an organized crime perspective where that segment of society is targeting caviar for profit. Do you think this is going to be the next big problem?

A: (Craig Tabor) As long as there is a market, there will be a demand, and there will be those that will be willing to exploit it. Past case work has shown that the criminal element, just like many things in nature, will take the path of least resistance. So if the penalties and enforcement are weaker on the US side of the border, and there remains a strong market for caviar and lake sturgeon meat, there will be those that will be willing to take the chance to go out and exploit that resource. So to answer your question, if the restrictions are stronger on the Canadian side then we will likely see exploitation on the US side go up.

A: (Mary Burnham Curtis) It really is the market that drives these things. For example, we have had some of the cheaper replacement products, such as whitefish roe, come through our lab that was dyed with squid ink to try and pass it off as beluga roe. We see much of the caviar come into our lab around Christmas and New Years because that is the time of year when the most demand is. They are doing a really good job in other wildlife industries such as hunting African and Asian wildlife, and getting the word out that this is not a good thing for people to be doing, and the demand if falling off.

Q: (Henry Quinlan) Can you describe the way that you collect samples for analysis?

A: (Mary Burnham Curtis) With the survey that we did back in the 90’s, we went to the local grocery stores and collected caviar samples for testing to determine what was being sold on the domestic retail market. For the international import markets, we have agents stationed at the major ports of entry like Miami, New York and Los Angeles. In the late 90’s, a lot of black market caviar was being smuggled into those ports. As enforcement with caviar restrictions increased at those ports, we saw a shift and attempts to import in places like Brownsville Texas. For clarification – our Wildlife Inspectors sample imports according to the shipment volume. If it’s a large shipment, only a percentage of it is actually sampled. What gets sampled depends on what is declared – more species will likely lead to more sampling. If the Special Agents are involved, we will likely sample more intensively, and they may sample exports as well as imports. Inspectors will routinely sample about an ounce of caviar, from which we analyze 2 eggs.

Q: (Nancy Auer) In recent professional manuscripts involving research with amphibians, the authors are purposely not disclosing the location and are not depicting maps and are very guarded about where their work is taking place. Do any of you think we should be more guarded about publishing or posting information about the locations of sturgeon populations around the Great Lakes?

A: (Craig Tabor) Similar to the remarks that my counterparts made earlier, public support and the knowledge about what government agencies are doing is important. To answer your question, we should look at these situations on a case by case basis. Related to some of my own experiences that are non-wildlife, the Fish and Wildlife Service also enforces The Archeological Resources Protection Act. In some recent case work that was done in Nevada, a researcher that knew where a pristine archeological site was located kept that a closely guarded secret to protect the site. No one else knew about it. With wildlife such as white sturgeon, like what was commented on earlier, the portion of the population that is interested in exploiting a resource like this often already knows about the locations where the wildlife can be found before we do. But for other species like a certain amphibian, if little is known about the species, then would be smart to not disclose information like where they can be easily found or where they would congregate to breed. I understand that for restoration work that is being done, it is often important for the public to be aware of the project to get their support.

Q: (Tom Pratt) The number of both federal and provincial officers is small relative to the resources that are available in the states. What do you think is the minimal level or enforcement capabilities that are needed to protect this species? In some of your programs you have been able to put 20 to 25 officers out there over a six week time frame. Is that overkill or could you cut that back and still have an effective program? Also explain how the volunteers play into the question as well?

A: (Todd Schaller) It is hard to say at what level you could drop back to and still have an effective program. The reason that we have kept it at the level that we have is because it is a unique resource that we can tap that others can not tap, so that helps us a great deal. We have a high level of enforcement toward sturgeon, however sturgeon isn’t the only work that is being done while on patrol. For our program it is a priority for us and we have resources that others don’t have.

A: (Robert Luke) During the earlier part of my career, which stretches back over 23 years, I was working with communities up in the arctic. When a violation took place, I would likely never had known about it had it not been for members of the community informing me. You build a trust within a community and the more you do that, the more information and the more proactive work that you can do. When the people that are doing illegal activity know that the people around them are willing to come forward with information, then the amount of illegal activity will go down. It is important that you get into isolated communities on a regular basis, community based management will only work if the public are willing to get involved. So it is important to maintain that trust and engage the public. I think it is key to effective enforcement.

A: (Mike Kitt) It is difficult to say how many officers would be enough. In our case, we have actually scaled back the number of officers that are on the river because the program has been effective with the volunteer patrols. I suppose at some point if we continued to scale back enforcement, illegal activity would increase.

Q: (Lloyd Mohr) How long has it taken to build these relationships and programs like sturgeon for tomorrow or the patrol programs?

A: (Greg Drogowski) Our program began in 1999 and within just a couple of years we began to see a turnaround and the crimes go down.

A: (Craig Tabor) Many times it depends on the species in question. Is it a species like the grey wolf in Idaho that has been reintroduced but it is universally hated by 95% of the population in the state, or is it a charismatic mega fauna? Depending on which scenario we look at, it is going to take different amounts of time to change people’s perception.

A: (Todd Schaller) Lake sturgeon are easy for instance when you can take kids down to a river and they can see fish that are much bigger and older than they are. It is an easy sell to get them and their parents involved. So in places like our area, it is easy to do.

Q: (Tom Pratt) In places like where Mike works, it seems that you are trying to work more closely with anglers rather than with the public. So are you seeing the same kind of turnaround?

A: (Mike Kitt) Once I started working with them, the turnaround in attitudes was fairly quick. With the problem group that I was working on, as soon as we started busting just one or two of them, word traveled very fast because they were such a tight knit group and attitudes changed. This is not to say that we don’t still have problems. We do. But not nearly as many as before, and I am sure that it was because we put our presence out there. As the public or community begins to take a stewardship role in these programs, less problems occur.

Q: (Rob Elliott) During regulation changes how often does the enforcement enter into the discussion? For example, on the Menominee River we have a very dedicated group of fisherman, but the fishery is now closed and it is now just catch and release fishing. Are you still going to come up and patrol or will those dedicated people move to somewhere else and now you will have to find a new location where you will have to sit for surveillance of illegal activities.

A: (Mike Kitt) The folks are very dedicated to their sport. Now you will see a lot of the illegal fish returned in hopes of catching a bigger one. Some of these people just like to catch them. I suspect that as we put more pressure on them through enforcement and regulation that you are going to see a shift. They are going to go to other areas in the state where there is a legal fishery because you are going to have a certain fraction of those people that want to take the fish home. I think the pressure is going to shift to different areas. I have talked with my counterparts in Ontario where they can catch one fish per day so if there is a demand in a place like Chicago and some one can catch a fish in Ontario and in a days time be back with the fish in Chicago, get ready because those people are going to be going there.

C: (Lloyd Mohr) Ontario is in the process of changing that. The new regulations would limit the fishing to one fish per year with a mandatory registration of each fish caught.

A: (Mike Kitt) We see a noticeable difference in angler activity between those 70 inch years and 50 inch years. Those people know what is there and they know when they have a realistic chance of catching a fish, so a lot of them don’t come. But we still get a fair amount, probably over 50%, that come because they just enjoy the fishery.

C: We dovetail our research activities with the law folks and Sturgeon for Tomorrow. Last year the sturgeon began spawning two weeks earlier than anticipated and we were able to alert Sturgeon for Tomorrow so that they could get there patrol program started, and we alerted the MDNR law people to get the ball rolling and get the officers out there when the fish were vulnerable. In turn, the law folks have been helpful by letting us researchers know easy access locations to the river and they have actually helped us catch some of the fish we were working with.

C: (Greg Drogowski) Communication between researchers and law folks is critical. The couple of fishery people that I am working closely with have provided valuable information about lake and stream assessments, where stocking is taking place. They come to us with information about regulation changes and we in turn build a relationship by telling them information that is useful for their work.

Q: (Henry Quinlan) I would like to comment about some of the concerns that were stated earlier about sturgeon aquaculture. Are you aware of sturgeon aquaculture taking place or being proposed in your respective areas?

A: I’m from Minnesota and we have some aquaculture taking place with fish that were purchased from the first nation. It is not a big operation but they have been permitted to have them in their facilities.

A: I’m from New Brunswick and we currently have one short nose sturgeon aquaculture program that has been up and running for about six years now and is doing fairly well. There have been a few other attempts with short nose and Atlantic sturgeon.

Q: (James Boase) Mary, has there been any effort to collect genetic information from the fish in this type of aquaculture program so that if they ever escape and become established in the wild, you would know where they came from?

A: (Mary Burnham Curtis) as far as I know, that type of information would come from the officers. I just did a Google search to find out a whole bunch about farmed sturgeon and there is some information out there; for instance Atlantic sturgeon in Florida and the one farm in Ohio. Just like the catfish farms, I think this is all going to fall under the USDA because it is a food product.

C: In my management area I have had requests by individuals to start a sturgeon aquaculture business but because the discharge flowed into an existing system that currently supports lake sturgeon, I was able to deny the permit. These people are not using it for caviar and things like that. I think it is because in our state we are mandated to use fish from private aquiculture facilities. I am just glad that we still have the ability to deny these permits or at least restrict what they are doing.

C: (Mary Burnham Curtis) Creating caviar takes a long time to develop and grow and it is a huge investment. Even though the demand and the market is there, it is likely that most of these aquaculture facilities are there to grow fish for stocking.

C: (Kim Scribner) I am curious why you would deny a permit for aquaculture but you would use aquaculture fish for your own state stocking program. I find that a little strange?

A: Because we do not get to make that decision. The legislation makes that decision.

Q: What percentage of the people that come out for these watch programs are actually from the user group and how many are just ordinary citizens that like the resource but don’t actually fish?

A: (Mike Kitt) I can not say for sure but I find a fairly high percentage of the people are from the non-user group. We are in a fairly large metropolitan area and because of this we get a fairly large group of people that don’t hunt or fish. They just want to come out and work with the resource.

A: (Greg Drogowski) I think we see the same thing. I would guess the ratio is 50:50.

A: (Brenda Archambo) We do tours and field trips for the local school kids and I think that is what gets the parents out there and interested.

Q: What has been the decision with the Canadian Government with the white sturgeon?

A: (Fred Hnytka) The decision has been made not to list certain populations of the white sturgeon, this is tied with socioeconomic issues. There has been some concern by NGO’s with that decision.
The following is a correction by Fred Hnytka for clarification
Following up on a question that was posed to me during the panel review regarding the listing of the white sturgeon under SARA, I would like to offer the following correction and clarification. My response as to whether the white sturgeon was listed was "not", however that response is not entirely correct. Only two of six populations, the Lower Fraser R. and Middle Fraser R. were not listed while the four remaining populations (Kootenay R., Nechako R., Upper Columbia R. and Upper Fraser) were indeed listed as "endangered". The links to the Canada Gazette provide the rationale. Please pass this on to the other workshop attendees.

Back to Contents
| Back to Home

Maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service | Privacy/Disclaimer | Webmaster
Updated 6/10/2009