Conservation efforts keep sturgeon off Endangered Species List

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined lake sturgeon do not require listing under the Endangered Species Act. The service’s 12-month status assessment shows ongoing management efforts, such as fish stocking, have contributed to the conservation and resiliency of the species.

“Today’s announcement shows the power of collaborative conservation and the impact it can have for species like the lake sturgeon,” said Will Meeks, Midwest regional director. “The fact that we’re seeing more and more lake sturgeon populations spawning in their historical habitat is a clear sign that restoration efforts are progressing. This success is credited to many partners including states, tribes, local organizations and others across the country coming together to conserve this species.”

Sturgeons have a prehistoric appearance because of their large size, shark-like tails and bony plate-armored covering. Tracing its origins back at least 150 million years, the lake sturgeon is one of the largest freshwater fish in North America occupying rivers and lakes across the eastern and central United States and Canada.

The most widespread ongoing conservation action considered in the assessment was the stocking of captive-reared lake sturgeon. Stocking programs have led to increases in adult lake sturgeon and spawning behaviors.

Although populations are not at historical levels, these successful programs have both bolstered existing populations and returned lake sturgeon to areas where they had disappeared, such as the Red River of the North, the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, the Middle Mississippi River and the Coosa River. Other successful conservation measures include restoring habitat connectivity through dam removal, fish passages and habitat restoration.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued a statement noting it will continue to follow the sturgeon management practices outlined in the Wisconsin Sturgeon Management Plan.