Washington Fish and Wildlife officials have received repeated reports of dead sturgeon this week on the Columbia River, but the exact cause of death remains a mystery.
On a walk along the Columbia River on Wednesday afternoon, Frank Carr spotted what he thought was a log in the river.
But as he, his fiancee and her cousin got closer, they could see fins and whiskers gently waving in the water. It was a dead 7-foot sturgeon, being pushed back and forth in shallow water as the river lapped along the shore.
A little farther downriver, they saw another dead sturgeon, this one a little smaller but still more than 5 feet long.
Washington Fish and Wildlife officials have received repeated reports of dead sturgeon this week on the Columbia River.
On Wednesday, Paul Hoffarth, district biologist for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, began adding up the sightings.
His rough total came to 66 dead sturgeon in the Columbia River from McNary Dam to Boardman. More than 20 were reported upstream, from the Hanford Reach downstream to the McNary Dam.
The exact cause of the die-off of the largest freshwater fish in North America is a mystery.
Warm water temperatures and likely other factors that stressed the fish contributed to their deaths, fish biologists said.
Fisheries specialists in the Columbia River Compact plan a meeting Thursday to discuss the situation.
“I’ve fished the river for many years and periodically see dead fish, but nothing to this magnitude,” said Malcom Chunn of Richland. On a fishing trip Tuesday he counted 15 sturgeon floating belly up in the 6 or 7 miles downstream from the Irrigon boat launch.
“It was really shocking to see all this. It’s such a precious resource to see wasted like this,” he said.
The Columbia River sees temperatures in the 70s each year, and sturgeon can tolerate that. But usually that warm water is seen in late August followed by a cooler fall, rather than in mid-July, Hoffarth said.
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