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One of the approximately 11,000 fish released. Photo: Sarah Harris.
One of the approximately 11,000 fish released. Photo: Sarah Harris.

Stocking sturgeon in the St. Lawrence

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The St. Lawrence River has more sturgeon than it did yesterday. About 11,000 baby sturgeon were released into the St. Lawrence and its tributaries.

State environmental officials hope to restore the sturgeon population in the region.

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Reported by

Sarah Harris
Reporter and Producer

It’s a windy, morning on the St. Lawrence and the rain has just let up. Biologists, anglers, and D.E.C. guys cluster at the Ogdensburg boat launch. They peer over massive coolers that hold thousands of baby sturgeon, called fingerlings.

Tom Brooking is a fisheries biologist with Cornell. He lives in Syracuse and is part of the volunteer group New York Sturgeon for Tomorrow. He tells me to pick one up. The fish flops around in my hand. It's brown, with delicate fins and a sharp spine. You wouldn’t think it, but these little fish will grow to be 3-5 feet long.

Brooking calls sturgeon "the bald eagle of freshwater fish." 

The problem for sturgeon was being big – and tasty. They were overharvested for their eggs in the early 1900s.

"Cavier was the big deal," says Scott Schlueter, a biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in New York.

Jeff Lockington releases sturgeon into the St. Lawrence River. Photo: Sarah Harris
Jeff Lockington releases sturgeon into the St. Lawrence River. Photo: Sarah Harris
"It’s like killing an oak tree for acorns. You take a fish that might not mature for 20 years and killing them for their caviar and even then once they mature they only spawn 3-5 years. They don’t do well with overharvest." 

Sturgeon have been classified as threatened in New York state for 40 years. But officials hope the 11,000 sturgeon released today will make a come-back in the St. Lawrence River.

Jeff Lockington is from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Wisconsin, where these sturgeon were hatched.

He scoops big nets-full of fish from the cooler and releases them into the river. 

Sturgeon in the river, trying to figure out what happens next. Photo: Sarah Harris
Sturgeon in the river, trying to figure out what happens next. Photo: Sarah Harris
Lockington says he likes the sturgeon because they date back to prehistoric times.

"It’s a lot of fun, one of the neatest fish we raise just because of how old they are, how far back their history goes." 

Net after net of sturgeons plop in the river and start swimming around. A seagull swoops in and grabs one. But the rest slowly start to swim away.

People here hope it’s just the beginning of a long life in these waters. 

 

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