New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was joined by federal and local partners today to release 500 fingerling lake sturgeon into the Genesee River as part of an effort to restore a healthy population of this native fish species. This event, in its sixth year of stocking, will increase the opportunity for Lake Sturgeon population to re-establish and thrive in the river.
"This project clearly demonstrates how great partnerships and good science together have contributed to the success of Lake Sturgeon restoration efforts," said Paul D'Amato, DEC Region 8 Regional Director. "This species of fish nearly disappeared from these waters, but thanks to the combined efforts of dedicated experts, Lake Sturgeon in the Genesee River now have a great chance to return to a healthy, thriving, self-sustaining population."
DEC's partners in this effort include research ecologist Dr. Dawn Dittman of the USGS Great Lakes Science Center; Scott Schlueter, Fish and Wildlife Biologist of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Dr. Jeff Wyatt, Director of Wildlife Health & Conservation-Seneca Park Zoo.
Lake Sturgeon is a native fish species that has been designated a species of concern across the Great Lakes Region. Historically abundant in Lake Ontario, this unique primitive fish has virtually disappeared due to overfishing and habitat degradation. Among the activities being undertaken to eventually remove lake sturgeon from the New York threatened species list include: protection from fishing harvest, habitat improvements, stocking of fingerlings, and evaluations of the success these direct efforts.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's New York Field Office supports the collaborative DEC lake sturgeon restoration program through funding provided from the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Fish Enhancement, Mitigation and Research Fund (FEMRF), a settlement with the New York Power Authority resulting from the relicensing of the St. Lawrence Power Project. The funding facilitates the cooperative sturgeon conservation field efforts in the St. Lawrence River valley, as well as the rearing of sturgeon fingerlings at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Genoa National Fish Hatchery (WI).
DEC and federal partners are implementing a restoration plan that includes a minimum of ten years of fingerling stocking in selected tributaries of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to facilitate re-establishing Lake Sturgeon populations in those waters. The Genesee River had a substantial Lake Sturgeon presence into the early 1900s that included "monster" sturgeon. The river has been the focus of recent restoration activities that included habitat evaluation, stocking of 1,900 fingerlings in 2003 and 2004, stocking of 3,000 fingerlings from 2013 to 2015, and an evaluation of the success of those fish. Results indicate that a number of those released sturgeon are residing in the Genesee River and nearby Lake Ontario and growing well, with weights ranging from 17 to 27 pounds and lengths up to 47 inches.