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Lake Sturgeon Recovery Plan

Lake sturgeon over a gravel bed.

A Draft Lake Sturgeon Recovery Plan (1.8 MB PDF) is available for public comment until November 25, 2017. Lake Sturgeon have been listed as a Threatened Species in New York since 1983. The Lake Sturgeon Recovery Plan was last updated in 2005 and since then, new guidance that defines a viable spawning population at 750 sexually mature fish has been published. Recent research cited throughout the plan also provides insights on spawning populations, distribution, and stocking survival among other things. This iteration of the New York recovery plan partitions the historic range of lake sturgeon into seven Management Units based on distribution of known sturgeon populations, movement within and among populations, and the genetic structure of lake sturgeon populations across the state.

The purpose of this recovery plan is to ensure perpetuation of the species in this State, restore self-sustaining populations, and remove the species from the Threatened Species list in New York. To achieve that goal, recovery metrics are defined that must be achieved in six of the seven Management Units to support removing lake sturgeon from the list of threatened species in New York. At a minimum, 750 sexually mature fish must be present in each Management Unit and there must be evidence of ongoing recruitment, measured by detection of 3 year classes of wild reproduction in a 5-year period, to consider that unit recovered. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation seeks to gather enough evidence of recovery of lake sturgeon to initiate removal from the list of Threatened Species in New York no later than 2024.

To comment on the plan, send an email with the subject line "Lake Sturgeon" to or send written comments via US Mail to:

Lisa Holst
Rare Fish Unit Leader
NYSDEC Bureau of Fisheries
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233

Lake Sturgeon Recovery Plan Executive Summary

Lake sturgeon are long lived, large bodied, late to sexually mature, and spawn only intermittently. These characteristics make this species especially vulnerable to overfishing, and slow to recover from the severe declines they experienced in the past. In New York State, overfishing and habitat degradation led to severe declines in many of the state's lake sturgeon spawning populations, resulting in listing as a state threatened species in 1983. While much research has been conducted on lake sturgeon in the past twenty years, we still lack sufficient knowledge of specific spawning locations for some populations, as well as population abundances and age structure for many of the populations. In order to change the New York State listed status of this species from Threatened to Special Concern, or to remove it from the list, there needs to be sufficient self-sustaining populations in the state to warrant that change. Defining these populations and an accompanying target number for recovery proved challenging since lake sturgeon occupy wide ranging and variable habitats across New York. In many cases, smaller spawning aggregations may be part of a larger metapopulation. To accommodate these variances, we defined Management Units across New York as a descriptor of these metapopulations. Self-sustaining populations of lake sturgeon are defined in this plan as having an estimate of at least 750 spawning adults across all spawning aggregations within a Management Unit and detection of at least three years of wild reproduction in a five-year period. A stocking program by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has been in place since 1993 to achieve these goals. Lake sturgeon have been re-established across the state and current stocking is seeking to enhance the genetic diversity of the stocked populations. Naturally recovering populations are also being monitored in several Great Lakes locations. Spawning habitat enhancement is taking place at several locations in the St. Lawrence River, and the Seneca River. NYSDEC, USFWS, US Geological Survey (USGS), Cornell University, St. Regis-Mohawk tribe, many local governments, non-governmental organizations, and utilities are working toward these goals. Contributions from all will be necessary to accomplish recovery of this species.

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