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TVO’s FishHeads takes a look at OPG’s lake sturgeon recovery efforts

Two young TV hosts got up close and personal with lake sturgeon during a visit to OPG’s Chats Falls Generating Station on the Ottawa River.

FishHeads hosts Christian and Syat handle a lake sturgeon with the help of OPG's Andy Narezny.
FishHeads hosts Christian and Sayat handle a lake sturgeon with the help of OPG's Andy Narezny.

The television crew of the new TVO Kids program Leo's FishHeads took to the river in the fall of 2018 to film the show’s first episode, titled Gentle Giants, which spotlights OPG’s efforts to help rejuvenate the population of endangered lake sturgeon. Aimed at kids and parents, the new show focuses on aquatic wildlife and ecosystems of North America.

The episode is set to air on TVO on Thursday, May 7, and can be viewed online.

“OPG’s efforts to reintroduce lake sturgeon to Ontario waterways demonstrates just the type of commitment to environmental stewardship we want to show our audience,” producer Karen Hawes said.

Dan Gibson, a Senior Environment Specialist with OPG, took FishHeads hosts Sayat, age 12, and Christian, 10, onto the Ottawa River to show how sturgeon are caught and safely released. On shore, Andy Narezny, an Environmental, Chemical and Safety Technician, explained how the sturgeon are measured, weighed and tagged.

The ancient lake sturgeon species can live more than 100 years, reach over two metres in length and weigh more than 150 kilograms. Over the past century, populations of the long-lived fish have been significantly diminished in Ontario by overharvesting, pollution, and habitat loss. But Canada’s largest freshwater fish is mounting a comeback in parts of the province.

FishHeads hosts Christian and Syat take to the waters near OPG's Chat Falls GS during filming of the TVO show.
FishHeads hosts Christian and Sayat take to the waters near OPG's Chat Falls GS during filming of the TVO show.

Fortunately for the FishHeads episode, the sturgeon cooperated and a good selection were caught during filming, including one large adult, which was more than 25 years old and weighed about 17 kilograms, and two juveniles between four and six years old.

One of the juveniles had a PIT tag, a small radio transponder, showing that it was caught last year.

“The catch indicates that the sturgeon population is recovering and the spawning beds are being used,” Narezny explained. “We have a nice mix of adults and juveniles and the recaptured fish are healthy.”

Gibson agreed and said the film shoot was a good way to recognize the sturgeon sampling program on the Ottawa River.

“OPG is entrusted not only with generating electricity at Chats Falls, but also the environmental footprint of the site. This is an exciting opportunity to showcase this to young Ontarians.”