CONSERVATION | Protecting the Great White Sturgeon: Giants Among Us released next year

Robert Morberg and Rick Hansen, avid fishermen, are supporters and protectors of the Sturgeon, which can be as old as 150 years. Photo: Vanessa Morberg

Robert Morberg and Rick Hansen, avid fishermen, are supporters and protectors of the Sturgeon, which can be as old as 150 years. Photo: Vanessa Morberg

By LeRae Haynes –

Documentary film maker Robert Moberg has focused on the Fraser River, Rick Hansen, and a unique species of fish for a feature-length film to be released in 2017. Giants Among Us: Rick Hansen and the Great White Sturgeon will highlight these incredible fish, some of whom may be 150 years old, as well as the importance of preserving and protecting their habitat.

Rick Hansen, friend of Moberg, avid fisherman, and founder of the Fraser River Sturgeon Preservation Society, will be invited to a screening of the film in Williams Lake. One of the people interviewed in Giants Among Us is Mark Angelo, founder of World Rivers Day.

“In the film, I’m tying in the fact that a sturgeon alive today could have been a hatchling swimming in the Fraser River 150 years ago,” Moberg said. “Every week sports fishermen catch sturgeon in the lower Fraser that are 10 feet long or longer; they can grow over 15 feet long.”

He explained that people think they’re a bottom feeder, but they swim mid-current. “One was found with six full-size sockeye salmon in its stomach. They have no teeth—have a giant suction mouth that sucks up fish. They can swim Hell’s Gate in full flood season,” he added.

“People come from all over the world to fish for them in the Fraser River on a catch and release program. They’re pit tagged to keep track of them, and because of that they’re heavily researched.”

Moberg’s first feature film was Bighorns at the Junction; he has also done short films, including safety videos for helicopter companies, and is currently working on a short film with the National Film Board.

He also does an occasional freelance job with CBC, and when the big breach at Mt Polley Mine took place last year it was his film used on TV. “We flew out by helicopter and saw the torrent of muck flooding into Quesnel Lake.

“We need to do everything possible to protect our wilderness and our rivers,” he said. “The only reason the Fraser has never been damned is that it’s too silty. That’s a wonderful thing. It’s a river worthy of respect.”

Kolby Croswell and Doug Mooring, nephew and friend of documentary film maker Robert Morberg, enjoy an up-close and personal moment with a Great White Sturgeon at the Fraser River. Photo: Robert Morberg

Kolby Croswell and Doug Mooring, nephew and friend of documentary film maker Robert Morberg, enjoy an up-close and personal moment with a Great White Sturgeon at the Fraser River. Photo: Robert Morberg

He works on projects as part of a team with his wife, and recently did part of the Fraser River stretch with the BC Rivershed Society’s Sustainable Living Leadership Program, filming some great footage for Giants Among Us. “Part of the film is about individuals banding together to raise awareness and conserve the river,” he explained.

“What appeals to me about the sturgeon is their age, the fact that a fish can outlive a human being. They’re a mystery: something that lives so long. What do they know that we don’t, in the dark depths of the river where you can’t see your hand in front of your face?”

Moberg said they went with Rick Hansen and caught some sturgeon six or seven feet long. “When you touch them it feels like a privilege, and you realize that preserving their habitat is incredibly important. They could have been 70 years old and look like a prehistoric shark. Up close their eye is very interesting, to say the least,” he added.

“They were almost extinct, which would have been an unforgiveable terrible loss.”

He said that conserving our rivers matters. “We all rely on the watersheds; the Fraser River is a huge one and it has to be looked after.

“I’ve always been an avid outdoor enthusiast. I lived a long time in Vancouver and Edmonton and when I came back to visit, I found the wilderness beautiful and refreshing. I started seeing the fragility of our wild spaces and was able to tie this lifelong love with another passion: film making,” he continued.

“My dream is to continue to make films that keep me in the wilderness.”

 

LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.

 

 

 

 

 

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