There’s something about sturgeon that has captured Alden Thom’s attention.
The eight-year-old from Ladysmith is so interested in these ancient bony fish that he has decided to support the International Centre for Sturgeon Studies (ICSS) at Vancouver Island University (VIU) in Nanaimo.
Thom is VIU’s youngest donor. He collected $35 in toonies from his fifth birthday party and donated the money towards VIU’s sturgeon research efforts. And in late February, Thom, his older brother Elwyn and grandparents Bernice and Stan Fediuk donated $100.
When he went to give his $100 to VIU, Thom had a chance to watch students and technicians move Tyra, a 200-pound, seven-foot-long sturgeon, and sturgeon brood stock into a new home inside a holding tank at the ICSS.
“It was easier to see them because in the other tank, you had to step on a stool and people were usually up there,” said Thom. “Now, there’s a window.”
Thom thought it was exciting to see the sturgeons being carried from the old tank to the new one.
Thom says he likes how the sturgeon are really strong.
“When they’re like a year old or a month old, they’re hard to hold onto,” he said.
Thom has visited the ICSS many times and even took his class there on a field trip when he was in kindergarten.
Thom became interested in sturgeon when he was four. When Thom was five, he and his parents read Tale of a Great White Fish by Maggie de Vries, and he’s never really looked back.
“There were lots of questions from Alden,” said his mother, Karen Fediuk.
Fediuk believes Thom will become a biologist when he’s older. They spent a lot of time on Holland Creek this year watching the salmon run, and Thom says he wants to volunteer at the Bush Creek Hatchery and at VIU.
Thom is interested in helping fish and in conservation.
Thom says he’s interested in sturgeon particularly because “they’re really tasty, and I liked how fast they swim.”
“I think it’s really cool how they lay so many eggs,” he added.
Sturgeon came from the age of dinosaurs, and they can live to be more than 100 years old and grow to be very large — sturgeons ranging from seven to 12 feet in length are common, and two 1,100-pound sturgeon were caught on the Fraser River in 2012.
Most species of sturgeon are considered at risk of extinction. VIU has been working with the white sturgeon since 1984.