An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New Hatchery Breeds Unusual Fish

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Idaho Senator Mike Crapo paused in a whirlwind tour of north Idaho town hall meetings Thursday to preside at the opening of an unusual fish hatchery run by the Kootenai Tribe in Bonners Ferry. The new 15-million dollar hatchery at Twin Rivers northeast of Bonners Ferry will produce white sturgeon and burbot, both unusual species which dwindled to nearly extinction in the past 50 to 100 years.

The Kootenai Tribe began working on sturgeon conservation back in 1988 as an experiment in its small hatchery. About a decade ago, tribal fish biologists linked up with University of Idaho scientists to develop burbot culture. The fish, sometimes called the ugliest fish in the west, is the only fresh-water relative of the cod, now nearly extinct.

A tribe biologist said there was no history of burbot hatcheries anywhere in the country when the work began, so it was a learn-as-you-go experiment. But with successful releases of hatchery fish in 2009 through 2012, the tribe found that burbot survive well in the Kootenai River and distribute themselves widely.

The tribe's hatchery construction, funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, includes habitat restoration in the Kootenai River.

Kootenai River White Sturgeon and Burbot 
Hatcheries Program - Preliminary Environmental Assessment:

Related Content