Counting Sturgeon: Settler Empirics and Moving Fish in the Columbia River

22 Oct 2020
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Event Type

Ashton Wesner
CSTMS Research Fellow and Lead Researcher of Queer Ecologies | Feminist Biologies Collaborative


When the U.S. dammed Nch´i-Wána (Columbia River) for hydroelectric power the migratory natural history of the river’s oldest and largest fish, wiláps (white sturgeon), was obstructed. Columbia River Indigenous fishers have long protested dams as deadly for sturgeon, yet settler fisheries science of the 20th c.–shaped by notions of sturgeon as ‘trash fish’ and ‘trophies’–did not account for sturgeon movement in regulatory configurations of the river’s ecosystem. Sturgeon are plated with bony scutes and grow to 20 feet long: they cannot swim through turbines while bottom-feeding, nor fit up salmon ladders to sea. This talk examines how settler practices of counting and constructing the value of fish shape, and are shaped by, sturgeon in motion. I use hatchery archives, scientific reports, and published testimonies from Nez Perce, Yakama, and other Indigenous fishers to reveal the relationship between settler cultural and empirical practices of measuring, monitoring, and monetizing sturgeon and their movements from the early 1900s to present.

This event is sponsored by CSTMS.
Additional sponsorship comes from:  CSTMS

Our Events

Other Events of Interest