Researchers in Canada have caught a record-breaking sturgeon in the Nechako River, British Columbia.
The huge female fish weighs 336 pounds and measures 9.6 feet in length, according to staff at the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre (NWSCC) who caught the animal in late April.
The center said in a Facebook post that the fish was the largest caught Nechako white sturgeon on record.
Researchers from the center caught the fish using lines they had set as part of their conservation efforts.
“We were pulling them up to see if there was sturgeon,” Jordan Cranmer, an outreach and junior research technician with the NWSCC, told the Vancouver Sun.
“Most sturgeons are heavy and give you a bit of a fight, so it wasn’t apparent how large it was, but as she got closer to the boat, it became apparent it was a record fish we were seeing.”
The fish is larger than the previous largest Nechako white sturgeon on record, which weighed 322 pounds.
“It was really an amazing experience,” Cranmer told CBC News.
According to Cranmer, the sturgeon is estimated to be almost 100 years old, is almost blind and remarkably fertile.
Nechako white sturgeon have unusual reproductive habits in that they reach reproductive age very late, around 40 years old for females, according to the NWSCC
Once the females are mature, they spawn more than once, but only every three to 10 years. This time, the record-breaking fish was fertile with eggs ready to mature.
“When she was caught in 2011, she wasn’t quite ready. She wasn’t quite fertile. But it was really a great discovery to find out that she was ready to spawn this year,” Cranmer told CBC referring to the record-breaking fish.
After the fish was caught, it was taken to the research center to spawn before being released back into the river in May. The aim of the NWSCC is to return the Nechako white sturgeon to a self-sustaining population. The population of these fish has been in critical decline.
“We are seeing juvenile recruitment failure, meaning the juveniles aren’t making it to adulthood for whatever reason,” Cranmer told the Vancouver Sun.
Once researchers have captured a sexually mature fish and brought it to the center to spawn, they raise the juveniles in a hatchery before releasing them into the wild after one year.