On Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., the Toledo Zoo and its partner organizations will hold the first lake sturgeon release into the Maumee River! The Maumee River Sturgeon Recovery Group* invites the public to the City of Toledo Boat Launch (near Walbridge Park) to witness this unique conservation effort in action!
Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) are currently one of the most threatened species in the Great Lakes. Historically, large populations of lake sturgeon were found throughout the Great Lakes, but now they are mainly found in small, fragmented populations. The oldest and largest fish in the Great Lakes, lake sturgeon have a life span of 50 to 150 years, can grow to be more than six feet long and weigh up to 200 lbs. These fish require spawning sites with clean, coarse rocks with interstitial spaces (cracks between the rocks) to protect eggs and larvae from predators and swift flowing water to cleanse and oxygenate the eggs.
The Zoo received grants from the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act Grants Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to construct a modular facility on Zoo-owned property near the Maumee River to hatch and rear the fish. The Ohio Division of Wildlife also provided and continues to provide funding for the on-going operation of the facility. In the facility, the Zoo has reared 600 lake sturgeon from eggs collected in U.S. and Canadian waters earlier this year. Additional fish will be released from the USFWS National Fish Hatchery in Genoa, WI, bringing the total number released to nearly 3,000. The lake sturgeon are now about six months old and about seven inches long. After release fisheries biologists with the ONDR Division of Wildlife, U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will monitor the population. The goal is to rear the fish in Maumee River water from a young age and capitalize on the homing ability of the species in hopes that they will return to the waterway to spawn at adulthood in approximately 15 years.
The community may sponsor a lake sturgeon to be released at our open-to-the-public event on Oct. 6. Each fish will be marked with a unique microchip allowing permanent identification of that individual. If the sponsored lake sturgeon is ever recovered as part of the on-going monitoring efforts, Toledo Zoo staff will notify the sponsor! Sponsorships start at just $25 and sponsors who purchase in-person at the Oct. 6 event are welcome to release their own fish! (Sponsorships are available anytime online at toledozoo.org/sturgeon, however, personal releases are only for in-person purchases on Oct. 6.) In addition to the release, there will also be a press conference at 10 a.m. and information and activity tables from the partner organizations set up from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. for guests to enjoy.
* The Maumee River Sturgeon Recovery Group consists of Ohio Department of Natural Resources- Division of Wildlife, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Purdy Fisheries Ltd., Toledo Zoo & Aquarium, The University of Toledo, University of Windsor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey.