June 12, 2013 - 8:25am

National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and Vancouver Island University Chancellor Shawn A-in-chut Atleo is confirmed to attend the 7th International Symposium on Sturgeon (ISS7) in Nanaimo, BC, Canada, July 21 – 25, 2013.

The symposium is the premier international conference on sturgeon held every four years by the World Sturgeon Conservation Society.

Entitled “Sturgeon, Science and Society – at the Crossroads: Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century” the symposium is expected to attract hundreds of delegates, including policy makers and industry representatives, from approximately 35 countries.

Co-hosted by Vancouver Island University and the City of Nanaimo, the symposium includes a special session focused on First Nations and Tribal American initiatives in sturgeon conservation on July 25, the same day Atleo will attend.

“We are delighted that Shawn Atleo has accepted our invitation to participate in this important symposium,” said Dr. Ralph Nilson, President and Vice-Chancellor of VIU.

“VIU has been involved in sturgeon research and conservation efforts for more than 25 years. Thanks to funding partners, including the BC government’s BC Knowledge Development Fund and the Canada Foundation for Innovation, VIU constructed our $5.25-million International Centre for Sturgeon Studies (ICSS) in 2011.

“Hosting this meeting will establish the ICSS as a knowledge and innovation hub supporting the development of sustainable sturgeon farming as an industry in BC,” said Nilson. “It will also produce scientific information to conserve and restore BC’s wild sturgeon populations. Input and participation by First Nations peoples is an important part of the process.”

“Like salmon, sturgeon are an iconic species attracting strong public attention and support,” said Atleo. “I am pleased to participate in this important dialogue among scientists, academics, First Nations and others about how to help meet the challenges of the 21st century in terms of sturgeon conservation.”

Rick Hansen, Founding Chair of the Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society (FRSCS) and Co-Chair of the Rick Hansen Foundation, is the Honorary Chair of the ISS7 symposium.

Hansen, along with President Nilson and Dr. Harald Rosenthal, president of the World Sturgeon Conservation Society, will welcome delegates in Nanaimo on Sunday evening, July 21. Hansen will attend the opening ceremonies July 22 and deliver the first plenary session entitled “Public involvement as a necessary force/strategy for sturgeon conservation.”

Sturgeon are considered ‘living fossils’ as they have remained largely unchanged for over 160 million years. Yet their future is in peril. ISS7 delegates will examine challenges facing the species including over-harvesting, strategies to support conservation and restoration efforts, and ways to develop economic opportunities around sturgeon from sustainable farmed caviar to meat production.

The symposium will focus on seven major themes including conservation and protection, stock assessment, human impacts, public engagement, aquaculture, caviar and processing as well as international trade.

“It will build on previous ISS meetings held most recently in the US (2001), Iran (2005) and China (2009),” said Don Tillapaugh, symposium Chair and Director of VIU’s International Centre for Sturgeon Studies and Centre for Shellfish Research.

“The goal of ISS meetings is to bring together scientists, policy-makers, conservationists, farmers, technologists, industry, and other stakeholders to examine topics critical to sturgeon,” Tillapaugh added. “ISS7 offers a unique opportunity to discuss the most current issues, network with the leaders in their field, and showcase products, services and technologies.”

For more information about the ISS7 symposium or VIU’s International Centre for Sturgeon Studies, go to


ABOUT VIU: Vancouver Island University is Canada’s west coast university. Known as a centre of excellence for teaching, learning and applied research, VIU offers a diverse range of certificate, diploma and undergraduate and master degree programs to more than 18,000 students on campuses in Nanaimo, Powell River and Cowichan, and at the Parksville-Qualicum Centre. For more information visit


Janina Stajic, Manager, Communications and Public Engagement, Vancouver Island University P: 250.740.6288 E: Twitter: @VIUNews

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