Sturgeon and Burbot Conservation Hatchery
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Conservation Aquaculture
Kootenai River white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) and burbot (Lota lota) were keystone species in the Kootenai River and are species of immeasurable cultural value to the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho. These native species once sustained a culturally important fishery for the Tribe and a valued recreational fishery.

By the 1970s populations of both species had declined precipitously because of modifications to the river corridor. Those declines worsened after Libby Dam was built and eventually resulted in the elimination of the Tribe’s ability to exercise its Treaty‐reserved fishing right.

The Kootenai Tribe has long recognized the need to protect Kootenai River white sturgeon (Kootenai sturgeon) and native Kootenai River burbot (burbot). In 1989, the Tribe initiated a Kootenai sturgeon conservation aquaculture program near Bonners Ferry in a genetic base for a healthy future population while waiting for ecosystem‐based habitat restoration activities to be developed and implemented. The Tribe also participates actively in a beneficial partnership with the British Columbia Ministry of Environment (BC MoE) and the Freshwater Fisheries Society of British Columbia to sustain the Kootenai sturgeon population in the cross‐boundary Kootenai River subbasin.

Similarly, the Tribe advocated and supported successful efforts at the University of Idaho to rear burbot to a juvenile life stage in a laboratory setting, paving the way for a more extensive culture and reintroduction program.

The goals of the Kootenai sturgeon aquaculture program are to: 1) prevent extinction of Kootenai sturgeon by preserving the locally adapted genotypes, phenotypes, and associated life history traits of the population; 2) restore a healthy age class structure to enhance demographic and genetic viability and persistence of the population; and 3) reestablish a sturgeon population capable of future Tribal Treaty subsistence and cultural harvest.

The goal for the Tribe’s burbot aquaculture program is to reestablish a native burbot population in the lower Kootenai River capable of future Tribal Treaty subsistence and cultural harvest and sport harvest once the population reaches sustainable levels.

The Tribe is currently in the design stage of critically needed improvements to the existing sturgeon hatchery and is planning a new facility that will allow sturgeon to imprint on waters farther upstream. The new hatchery will also allow the Tribe to implement a native burbot conservation aquaculture program. Click here to view the Kootenai River Native Fish Aquaculture Program Master Plan

Fish and Wildlife Dept Director: Susan Ireland, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho
Biologist/Aquaculture Program Manager: Shawn Young

This project is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration through the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Columbia River Basin Fish & Wildlife Program (Project Number 198806400).

Sue Ireland or Shawn Young at the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho
(208) 267-3620

Click below to view a program flyer.

…………. Hatchery

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Kootenai Tribe of Idaho
P.O. Box 1269
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805
Phone: 208-267-3519

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