Meet the lake sturgeon — a fish that has been around since the time of the dinosaurs.
One of New York’s largest freshwater fish was almost completely wiped out nationwide until the 1950’s. Overfishing, water pollution, and persistent dam construction are all contributing circumstances — but overfishing for meat and caviar is likely the largest underlying factor.
Lake sturgeons are shark-like in appearance, measuring an average 3-5 feet in length and weighing anywhere from 10-80 pounds, but much bigger specimens have been reported. The fish bears an overall streamlined shape and is equipped with five rows of bony plates. Barbels that hang from its mouth help the bottom feeder locate prey, including snails and clams.
“Globally, there are over 20 species of sturgeon that have been around relatively unchanged since the times of the dinosaurs,” Scott Schlueter, a biologist at the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, stated to the New York Times.
And while humans nearly eradicated the species from the planet, New York scientists are working to repopulate these fish in their native waters.
A massive egg harvesting procedure is performed on an annual basis, this year from about 120 lake sturgeons in the St. Lawrence River. Fertilized eggs will be transported to hatcheries where they will be raised until they are big enough to be released back into the wild.
The fish will be individually tagged and monitored so that scientists can study how well they reproduce in the wild.
Through this initiative, scientists intend on restocking 10,500 sturgeons back into their native waters.