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For Release: Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Lake Sturgeon Released into the Genesee River

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) staff and federal and local partners today released 1,000 fingerling lake sturgeon into the Genesee River as part of an effort to restore a healthy population of this native fish species. This event marks the third year a release has taken place. The addition of these young fish to the Genesee River will increase the chance that the river will once again be the home to a re-established and thriving Lake Sturgeon population.

"This project clearly demonstrates how great partnerships and good science together have contributed to the success of lake sturgeon restoration efforts," said Paul D'Amato, DEC Region 8 Regional Director. "This species of fish nearly disappeared from these waters, but thanks to the combined efforts of dedicated experts, lake sturgeon in the Genesee Rive now have a great chance to return to a healthy, thriving, self-sustaining population."

Regional Director D'Amato noted the commitment and hard work of partners in this effort, including research ecologist Dr. Dawn Dittman of the USGS Great Lakes Science Center; Scott Schlueter, Fish and Wildlife Biologist of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Dr. Jeff Wyatt, Director of Animal Health and Conservation for the Seneca Park Zoo; and DEC staff.

Lake sturgeon is a native fish species that has been designated a species of concern across the Great Lakes Region. Historically abundant in Lake Ontario, this unique primitive fish has virtually disappeared due to over fishing and habitat degradation. Among the activities being undertaken to eventually remove lake sturgeon from the New York threatened species list include: protection from fishing harvest, habitat improvements, stocking of fingerlings, and evaluations of the success these direct efforts. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's New York Field Office supports the collaborative state DEC lake sturgeon restoration program through funding provided from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Fish Enhancement, Mitigation, and Research Fund (FEMRF), a settlement with the New York Power Authority resulting from the relicensing of the St. Lawrence Power Project. The funding facilitates the cooperative sturgeon conservation field efforts in the St. Lawrence River valley, as well as the rearing of sturgeon fingerlings at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Genoa National Fish Hatchery (WI).

DEC and federal partners have been following a restoration plan that includes a minimum of five years of fingerling stocking in selected tributaries of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to facilitate the reestablishment of lake sturgeon populations in those waters. The Genesee River had a substantial lake sturgeon presence into the early 1900s that included "monster" sturgeon. The river has been the focus of recent restoration activities that included habitat evaluation, stocking of 1,900 fingerlings in 2003 and 2004, and evaluation of the success of those fish. The evaluation results indicate that a number of those released sturgeon are residing in the Genesee River and nearby Lake Ontario and growing well, with weights ranging from 10 to 25 pounds.

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