The White Sturgeon is an endangered marine species of fish that spawns in freshwater river systems along the Pacific Coast of North America. It is found from the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, south to Monterey, California. In Canada, it is only found in British Columbia. Spawning populations are found in three major river systems: Fraser, Columbia and Scaramento River drainages (Ptolemy and Vennesland 2003
, BCCDC 2010
Ptolemy and Vennesland say: "In Canada, white sturgeon are found only in British Columbia: in the Fraser River system from the estuary upstream past the Morkill River, northwest of McBride; in the upper Columbia system in Arrow and Slocan lakes and in the mainstem downstream of Hugh L. Keenleyside Dam; and in the Kootenay River from Kootenay Lake upstream to the U.S. border. Reports of sturgeon from the Skeena, Nass and Yukon rivers, when checked, have been found to be green sturgeon....White sturgeon have been identified from several rivers on Vancouver Island, but are not resident."
Ptolemy and Vennesland (2003) describe this as the largest freshwater fish in Canada, sometimes reaching lengths of more than 6 m (Scott and Crossman 1973). It is grey, pale olive or grey-brown above to grey or white below with rows of bony plates (scutes) along the back and sides, a large broad head with small eyes, 4 barbels anterior to the mouth, and one dorsal fin; the body is more rounded than other species of sturgeon (Scott and Crossman 1973). It is most similar in appearance to the green sturgeon. However, "white sturgeon have two rows of 4 - 8 scutes on the ventral surface between the pelvic and anal fins; green sturgeon have only one row of 1- 4 scutes.(Ptolemy and Vennesland 2003). This is a bottom feeding species, with young feeding on aquatic insect larvae, crustaceans, and molluscs, adults feeding on mainly fish (BCCDC 2010). It is a long-lived species that may reach ages of greater than 100 years (Ptolemy and Vennesland 2003).
The British Columbia Conservation Data Centre (2012) lists eleven populations of this species, and says: "Some are anadromous and make extensive saltwater migrations. Many move more locally from estuaries to fresh water, or further inland within fresh water, to spawn."
Population declines are occurring and are attributed to habitat decline as a result of dams as well as dredging, dyking and channelization of rivers and streams (Ptolemy and Vennesland 2003).
Read the COSEWIC status report for this species.
Read about a 12 foot long, 1100 lb White Sturgeon caught in the Fraser River in 2012.