The population of lake sturgeon is at less than 1% of its historic levels for a variety of reasons, including habitat loss and overfishing in the 1900s when their eggs were highly sought for caviar. Alongside many partners, The Conservation Fund is working to restore this species.
“Sturgeon are an amazing native species; they’ve been around for 130 million years, so they truly are a dinosaur,” says Mike Kelly, director of the Great Lakes Office. “Since we eradicated them from the system, it’s our responsibility to bring them back.”
In 2020, Bay Area Community Foundation awarded an $8,000 grant from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Restoration Fund to support food and rearing costs associated with raising more than 2,000 lake sturgeon for release into four Saginaw Bay Watershed rivers.
The program is already showing promising results. Juvenile sturgeon have not been caught in the Saginaw River in more than 150 years, but this winter, ice fishermen have been catching them fairly consistently.
“All systems are go,” said Kelly for continued sturgeon larval collection, hatchery operations, and release into the Tittabawassee, Flint, Cass, and Shiawassee rivers later this year.