A petition has been launched to have a white sturgeon removed from a display at the new Tsawwassen Mills megamall in Metro Vancouver.

The five-foot fish is living among salmon and trout inside Bass Pro Shops, a 148,000-square-foot store that features a 15,000-gallon freshwater aquarium.

The massive outdoor gear and apparel shop opened just two days ago, but the sturgeon display has already sparked controversy, with some animal rights activists calling to have the fish removed immediately.

"It's upsetting to see," said Laura Leyburn, whose father started the petition against the display. "The sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in North America. It's kind of sad, [given] it can grow to up to be 150 years old and 20 feet, that it's kept in a tank with other fish."

Some have also raised concerns about the behaviour of the sturgeon, which has been bobbing to the surface of the tank. While wild sturgeons are bottom-feeders, experts said the fish could be acclimatizing to its environment.

The white sturgeon was designated an endangered species in 2003, and four of the six populations found in B.C. are listed under the Species at Risk Act, meaning they can't be fished. The others are strictly catch-and-release.

But the sturgeon inside Bass Pro Shop came from Northern Divine Aquafarms, a land-based Ocean Wise farm on the Sunshine Coast. General manager Justin Henry said they only transfer fish to an aquarium if certain conditions are met.

"In this case we looked into the facility, looked at all their water quality parameters to make sure that was going to work for our fish," Henry said.

The store, which touts its support of conservation organizations, defended the aquarium Friday, noting it has a marine biologist looking after the fish and stressing that it was built with education in mind.

"How many people would have an opportunity to see a sturgeon?" asked Gerry MacIntyre, store manager.

"We've gone to the government, we've gotten all the correct permits, it's taken us a long time and cost us a lot of money to put him in this tank, and it's really about the education and conservation to our people."

Farmed sturgeon can't be released into the wild, but Leyburn believes the fish could still have a better life than the one provided inside Tsawwassen Mills.

"I'm sure [the farm] could take it back where it's at least closer to its natural habitat rather than a tank in a retail location in a huge mall," she said.

The family's petition had been signed about 215 times by Friday afternoon.

With a report from CTV Vancouver's Jonathan Glasgow