New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the release of the final Lake Sturgeon Recovery Plan for New York.
“Lake Sturgeon have been listed as a threatened species in New York since 1983, and this plan will provide DEC and our partners with a clear blueprint to achieve recovery of this ancient fish within our waters,” Commissioner Seggos said. “This report is the culmination of dedicated work by our staff and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Cornell University, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, and others, including the New York Power Authority, since recovery activities began in 1992.”
The purpose of this recovery plan is to ensure perpetuation of the species in the state, restore self-sustaining populations, and remove the species from the threatened species list in New York. The plan sets clear metrics to demonstrated recovery in six of the seven management units across the species’ range in the state. DEC anticipates the agency will gather enough evidence of recovery of lake sturgeon to initiate removal from the list of threatened species in New York no later than 2024.
The plan was completed after incorporating comments from the public and partners and is the culmination of dedicated work by DEC, the New York Power Authority (NYPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Cornell University, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, and others since recovery activities began in 1992. NYPA was integral in the development of three spawning beds on the St. Lawrence.
A summary of comments is included in the final plan, and are available on DEC’s website: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/111557.html.
Lake sturgeon were once abundant in New York, but commercial fishing, dam building, and habitat loss decimated populations. Today the fish can still be found in Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, Grasse River, Oswegatchie River, and Black Lake, as well as Lake Champlain, Cayuga Lake, Oneida Lake, Seneca River, and the Cayuga Canal. While sturgeon numbers have improved, their populations are still low compared to historical levels both in New York and the rest of the Great Lakes states. It is estimated that fishing removed 80 percent of the sturgeon from Lake Erie by 1900. Sturgeon were once prized for their meat and caviar and constituted an important industry in the state.
Lake Sturgeon are native to the Mississippi River Basin, Great Lakes Basin, and Hudson Bay region of North America. They are the largest fish native to the Great Lakes, growing up to seven or more feet in length and achieving weights of up to 300 pounds. A specimen that was 7 ft. 4 in. long and weighed 240 pounds was found in Lake Erie in 1998.
Lake sturgeon from New York’s inland waters are smaller on average and may grow to three to five feet in length and about 80 pounds as adults. Male sturgeon become sexually mature between eight and 12 years of age and may live as long as 55 years. Females become sexually mature between 14 and 33 years of age and live as long as 80 to 150 years. The slow rate of maturity and reproduction make the fish particularly vulnerable to overfishing.