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The Challenges of Sturgeon Stewardship

January 23, 2014 Leave a comment
RearingTrailer

A sturgeon rearing facility in Allegan County Park, in New Richmond on the Kalamazoo River. Photo: Mark Brooks

Thanks to a fellowship from the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources, I was able to join a group of journalists on a learning expedition in Michigan last year. One of the projects we investigated was the effort underway to rehabilitate lake sturgeon populations in the state. I produced a short audio documentary for the Great Lakes Echo about this program.

Back in the late 1800s, lake sturgeon ranged widely throughout the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes and the Hudson River. The Lake Michigan region is in the centre of the sturgeon’s historic range. Populations in and around the state were estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands. However, sturgeon were considered a nuisance by commercial fishermen because they destroyed fishing gear that was set to target other species. This led to their widespread slaughter and, since the mid-nineteenth century, exploitation and habitat degradation have resulted in a substantial decline in sturgeon populations. Only a remnant of the original lake sturgeon population remains in most Great Lakes areas today, including that of Lake Michigan.

The fish is now listed as a threatened species by the  Michigan Department of Natural Resources and numerous management efforts are being undertaken to try to protect the fish and ultimately restore healthy sturgeon populations. One of these initiatives is a streamside rearing program operated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. During the IJNR trip, we visited the rearing program at the Allegan County Park in New Richmond on the Kalamazoo River.

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