Sturgeon Marking Project

Connect to the other end of the transmission line.

WHY ARE THERE BLUE FISH PAINTED ON HYDRO POLES AROUND WINNIPEG AND OTHER PARTS OF MANITOBA?

The Sturgeon Marking Project is an awareness campaign intended to bring attention to the impact of hydro generation at the other end of the line. Similar to storm drain marking projects in BC and ON, we believe that stencilling the image of a sturgeon on hydro poles throughout neighbourhoods in Manitoba will serve as a reminder for us – that we are inter-connected with what we consume. Our hope is that the sturgeon symbol will broaden our lens and remind us that we are all in this together.

WHY STURGEON?

The following is written by Elder Ellen Cook

Many Indigenous people believe we came from sturgeon long ago. Sacred stories demonstrate both the social and religious value of Indigenous people-sturgeon relations. One example is an oral story which appears throughout much of North America and is known as “The Birth of Wisakecak and the Origin of Mankind”, and also as “The Chase”, or “The Legend of the Rolling Head.” The first known written form was by Rev. James Settee in 1810.

The sturgeon continues to be revered by many Indigenous people throughout much of Canada. Historically, it was a staple fish and people followed the sturgeon to where it was plentiful. One sturgeon could feed the whole family and it was considered a hearty food and a species to be respected and protected in its own right.

The sturgeon population in rivers dammed by hydro development are suffering. Tataskweyak Cree Nation have hired research company AAE Tech Services to study the sturgeon on the Lower Churchill River, hoping that their findings will help put this species on the Species at Risk list, forcing Manitoba Hydro to moderate their operation in a way that balances:

  1. the livelihood needs of the communities who use the water
  2. the habitat and spawning needs of the endangered Lake Sturgeon, and
  3. stable energy production for consumers.

The first step towards this balance is limiting the lake, flow and discharge levels of the Churchill River Diversion (see below) to those in the orginally agreed upon operational license.

WHEN?

You can expect to see a stencil pop up here and there during the month of May and early June, but we will be having a day of action on June 19, 2021.

FYI

Lower Churchill River

The Lower Churchill River is the portion of the Churchill River downstream of the Missi Falls Control Structure (see map below). It flows Northeast and empties into Hudson Bay. Before hydro development, this portion of the river was a fast moving, high water river, teeming with life. Since 1974 and the completion of the Churchill River Diversion, this 500 km stretch of the river has been reduced to a trickle resulting in massive loss of life. 

De-watered Lower Churchill River

In technical terms, the Lower Churchill River would, on average, see a flow of 35,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) with highs of 70,000 CFS and, at its lowest 20,000 CFS. The augmented flow program reduced the average flow to 500 CFS!! Even if you can’t fathom what these numbers mean, you can see that the difference is immense. Imagine the most beautiful river you have ever seen (really, close your eyes and imagine) then imagine the water turned down like a tap. The picture above is a photo of a dewatered Lower Churchill River. As you can see, it is next to impossible for a mature sturgeon (or any species of fish) to swim through this water, leaving them stranded in small pools of the river that reach deeper levels.

1200 in 2021

Our goal is to paint 1200 stencils in 2021. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has estimated that a fish species needs 1200 adults in order to survive.

Recent research on the Lower Churchill River by AAE Tech Services shows that the population of sturgeon range between 900 and 1700 adults.

One of our hopes and motivation is to be part of saving this species in the Lower Churchill River. May each stencil represent a living fish!

Fill out the following form with the number of stencils you painted.

Stencil Count Form

Total stencils in Manitoba:

308

Facts about Sturgeon

  • Sturgeon take 20 years to reach sexual maturity and reproduce every 4 years.
  • Sturgeon eggs take 5-7 days to hatch
  • The largest sturgeon ever recorded in Manitoba was 15′ 2″ long, weighing 406 lbs. In good conditions, these fish can thrive and live up to 150 years.

Get Involved

The Sturgeon Marking project is ongoing and something we hope to see continue year after year. If you would like to add stencils to your neighbourhood or have a group or class looking for a neighbourhood project, click here for resources.