Artificial reefs bolster sturgeon
in St. Clair River
The installation of rocky reefs in the St. Clair River delta created 40,000 square feet of spawning habit for lake sturgeon, which is expected to bolster the population of this iconic Great Lakes fish species.
The St. Clair River was historically a haven for a lake sturgeon and other fish species but overfishing, pollution and dredging of the river bottom destroyed much of the spawning habitat. A project led by Michigan Sea Grant is re-establishing lake sturgeon spawning habitat in the St. Clair River. Sea Grant is overseeing the installation of nine rocky reefs in the river. The project will create 40,000 square feet of fish spawning habitat in the St. Clair River delta and connect to 14 square miles of nursery habitat in the delta. The project is designed to increase the number of lake sturgeon and other native fish species living in the river. Creating new fish habitat will also advance efforts to get the St. Clair River delisted as a Great Lakes Area of Concern. The rock reefs will help several native species that are considered threatened or endangered in Michigan, including lake sturgeon, mooneye, the northern madtom catfish and river redhorse sucker. Walleye also will benefit from the reefs. The reefs were constructed in the middle channel of the St. Clair River delta, away from shipping lanes.
Resource Challenges Addressed
- Loss of spawning habitat for lake sturgeon
LAKE STURGEON REEF CONSTRUCTION
Location: Delta of the St. Clair River, North of Detroit, Mich.
Approximate cost: $1.1 million, most of which was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
Key partners: Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Michigan Sea Grant, U.S. Geological Survey, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the University of Michigan, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, SmithGroup JJR and the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy
Types of jobs created: Biologists, ecologists, barge operators, heavy equipment operators and general laborers
Results and Accomplishments
The first reef is already attracting lake sturgeon to the St. Clair River Delta. Scientists will continue to study the area to determine if the reefs are increasing the lake sturgeon population in the river.