In Media: Prehistoric Fish Receiving Help to Return to the River
Great Lakes Sustainable Recreational and Commercial Fisheries - News

Written by Kara Dunn for

Oswego, NY, June 27, 2019 - With help from a Disney Conservation Fund grant to New York Sea Grant (NYSG), the unique lake sturgeon, once abundant in New York waters, including in the St. Lawrence River, will benefit from recovery efforts.

The lake sturgeon has remained largely unchanged for 100 million years. The fish can grow to several feet long, more than 200 lbs., and live for more than 150 years. Its populations began to decline in New York State, in the mid-1800s, largely as a result of overharvesting, dam construction, and habitat degradation. The fishery was closed in 1976 and lake sturgeon were designated a Threatened Species in 1983.

Juvenile Sturgeon. Credit: Jesse Lepak / NYSG.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation lists lake sturgeon as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (NYSDEC, 2015). Today, it is illegal to possess lake sturgeon or target them while fishing in New York.

Sturgeon in a holding tank. Ten thousand to 11,000 sturgeon are being stocked in New York waters every year. Credit: Jesse Lepak / NYSG.

Lake sturgeon is considered a species of cultural significance to the Mohawks of Akwesasne and other Haudenosaunee Nations surrounding the Lake Ontario, Niagara River and St. Lawrence River watersheds. The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe (SRMT) Environment Division is a key partner in the “Inspiring Lake Sturgeon Conservation” project that includes conservation and education outreach efforts.

Other lake sturgeon project partners with NYSG include NYSDEC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)-New York, New York Sturgeon for Tomorrow, and U.S. Geological Survey, offering invaluable expertise in research, outreach, education, and extension.

This Lake Sturgeon was discovered during fish sampling on the Bad River in Wisconsin (May 2017). Credit: Sharon Rayford / USFWS Midwest.

“Support from the Disney Conservation Fund grant will help increase awareness about lake sturgeon and the challenges they face as a Threatened Species in New York.  Lake sturgeon populations are showing signs of recovery, and we want to encourage that recovery,” said project leader Jesse M. Lepak, Ph.D., New York Sea Grant Great Lakes Fisheries and Ecosystem Health Extension Specialist, Ithaca, N.Y.

In March 2019, New York Sea Grant posted a one-minute video on the lake sturgeon restoration effort.

The Disney Conservation Fund has been supporting local efforts around the world aimed at saving wildlife, inspiring action and protecting the planet with more than $75 million distributed to nonprofit organizations since 1995.

More Info: Kara Lynn Dunn

Kara Lynn Dunn is the publicist for the New York Sea Grant Great Lakes Program.   She lives in Mannsville, NY, with her husband and photographer, Brian Whattam, who grew up in Three Mile Bay, NY. She earned a journalism degree at the University of Pittsburgh; is a freelance writer, publicist, and designer; and has authored two books on North Country natural and historic sites. Kara vividly recalls childhood camping adventures along the St. Lawrence River with the Village of Mannsville Summer Recreation Program.

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 33 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly. Our program also produces an occasional e-newsletter,"NOAA Sea Grant's Social Media Review," via its blog,

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