More then 80 sturgeon have died in the last two weeks out of the Columbia River leading to a fishing ban on the ancient fish.
The corpses of 80 sturgeons were discovered upstream from the Bonneville Dam and with many reports in the mid-Columbia.
A recommendation to stop all sturgeon fishing on the Columbia River came during a state meeting of the Columbia River Compact.
Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife officials announced July 18 as the official shutdown date of sturgeon fishing on the Columbia River upstream from the Bonneville Dam, the Lower Snake River and adjacent tributaries.
Not much is known about the sudden die-off, but some are suggesting that the severe drought conditions have a hand in the problem.
“Sturgeon are clearly under a lot of stress due to current drought conditions right now,” said Guy Norman, the state wildlife agency’s regional director for southeast Washington, in a release.
Wildlife officials are still investigating the die-off, but the bodies of the dead sturgeon are quickly decomposing. The autopsied fish that are five feet long or bigger were found to be in good health with bellies full of sockeye salmon.
When a sturgeon feeds heavily it drives up their metabolism and increases their need of oxygen, and with the warmer water temperatures it reduces the oxygen for the fish.
Now the concern is how this die-off will affect the Columbia Rivers sturgeon populations with the breeding age fish dying. It won’t just impact current populations, but future populations for years to come.