Lake Sturgeon Monitoring
in Lower Niagara River Ensures
State-of-the-art monitoring technology ensures stable, healthy population growth and recovery for threatened lake sturgeon.
Lake sturgeon are an ancient fish that have inhabited the Great Lakes region for millennia, and have provided a valuable source of food for civilizations that have made the Great Lakes their home. At the time of European settlement, lake sturgeon were abundant in the Great Lakes and its associated rivers. However, towards the end of the 19th century, overfishing and human development led to a precipitous decline in lake sturgeon populations.
Thanks to new environmental regulations and fishing restrictions, lake sturgeon populations have slowly begun to rebound in the Great Lakes region. To ensure that this population rebound is consistent over the long term, more research into sturgeon dietary habits, movement behavior, and breeding routines is necessary.
By funding long-term research into the sturgeon’s population, movement and habitat use, the Great Lake Restoration Initiative has made it a priority to ensure that the Lake Sturgeon population growth remains healthy and stable.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies and universities, has conducted lake sturgeon research in the Niagara River and Lake Ontario since 2010.
With state-of-the-art tracking technology, acoustic telemetry and other techniques, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been systematically assessing the lake sturgeon populations in the Lower Niagara River, working to answer questions such as: “What is the age distribution of sturgeon in the Lower Niagara River? When do sturgeon come into the river from Lake Ontario? How long do they spend in the river? Where in the river do they spend the most time? How far up the river do they swim?”
These data provide a wealth of knowledge for conservation efforts aimed at ensuring that lake sturgeon remain a vibrant part of the ecosystem of the Great Lakes for centuries to come.
Resource Challenges Addressed
- Declining fish populations
- Ecological degredation
Lake Sturgeon feed on insects, larvae, leeches and other marine life. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Location: Niagara River, NY
Approximate cost: $639,000 over 10 years provided by the GLRI
Key partners: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, SUNY Buffalo State College
Types of jobs created: Research, biologists
Results and Accomplishments
By tracking key data about the health and location of Niagara River lake sturgeon populations, researchers are able to plot the sturgeon’s comeback in real time, responding to threats as they occur.