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Quebec Bulletin
February - March 2013/Volume 16/Number 1

Species at Risk
Odanak Abenakis Committed to the Lake Sturgeon’s Recovery

Egg collector
River rocks are covered with a piece of furnace filter and then placed in a net bag with a float to make an egg collector.
Lake Sturgeon egg
Fresh Lake Sturgeon egg (greenish and sticky) in one of the collectors.

Since 2007, the Odanak Land and Environment Office has relied on the community’s commitment and abilities to protect species at risk. Over the last year, with support from the Government of Canada Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk, the Office has turned its attention to Lake Sturgeon recovery in the Saint-François River (south of Trois-Rivières). The species, also called kabasa, was once abundant there and the Odanak community used the sturgeon shape as a signature.

Promising Sampling
Last spring, over 100 sites suitable for Lake Sturgeon spawning were sampled from Drummondville to the Pierreville islands at the Saint-François River mouth. Eighty egg collectors were set in swift water on rocky ground or coarse gravel to determine signs of the species’ active presence. These are the places most likely to harbour freshly deposited eggs because they are sheltered from predators and well oxygenated. The collectors were checked every two days and caught eggs from walleye, mooneye, and various redhorse and sucker species.

Fruitful Efforts
In early May, several opaque olive-greenish eggs measuring 3 to 5 mm were discovered and confirmed Lake Sturgeon spawning in two sectors developed in 2001 but not subject to diligent monitoring since. Locating and characterizing spawning sites is important to help properly direct potential conservation measures such as developing sensitive areas or implementing best practices to avoid disturbing sturgeon during spawning. In doing this, the project founders hope to contribute to the Lake Sturgeon’s return to the Saint-François River.

Since 2004, the Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk has supported Aboriginal peoples and organizations in their commitment to implementing the Species at Risk Act, which recognizes the role that Aboriginal people play in wildlife conservation.

Distinguished by its bony plates and caudal fin similar to that of sharks, the Lake Sturgeon is one of the largest freshwater fish in Canada. The largest observed specimen was 3 m long and weighed 180 kg. Lake sturgeon are eaten smoked and their eggs are sold as caviar. In 2006, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada deemed the species endangered in the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes areas.

Myriam Bourgeois
Ecosystems Management
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