The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is working to boost Lake Erie sturgeon breeding populations as part of a broad lake revitalization project.
Lake Erie sturgeon were once plentiful, but over fishing wiped them out in the mid-1800’s. Nearly two decades ago, sturgeon were believed to be extinct in the lake, and only a few of them are found in the lake each year. But that may be about to change.
According to the Associated Press, the DNR hopes to restore Lake Erie sturgeon populations as part of a larger effort to revitalize the lake. The International Joint Commission, a US-Canadian wildlife agency partnership is working to reduce phosphorus runoff and large algae blooms that are damaging Lake Erie’s ecosystems. The DNR hopes boost sturgeon in the lake once it’s cleaned up, partly because the species are good indicators of the health of an ecosystem. Lake Sturgeon are sensitive to pollution and human activity, so if their numbers are restored, they could provide clues information about the lake’s overall health.
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Lake sturgeon are a protected species, not only in Lake Erie, but nearly every other US state they are found. In the 19th century, Lake Erie sturgeon were so plentiful that they were sometimes burned as fuel for steamboats. Fishermen primarily sought Lake Erie sturgeon for their tasty meat and eggs. Nowadays, the state wildlife officials receive only 15-20 reports of Lake Erie sturgeon, most of them juvenile fish.
Lake sturgeon are the largest fish found in Lake Erie. They are a prehistoric species that can grow up to 200 pounds and more than 10 feet in length. Sturgeon have bony plates instead of scales.
Texas wildlife officials are trying a similar revitalization project in Caddo Lake with Paddlefish, also a protected prehistoric species. Paddlefish are also good indicators an ecosystem’s health.
Do you think sturgeon populations should be restored in Lake Erie? Share your thought in the comments section.