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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Tribal Wildlife Grant Program Benefits Lake Sturgeon Restoration Efforts

Region 3, September 12, 2013
Tribal members help Genoa NFH staff stock sturgeon on the Red Lake Reservation
Tribal members help Genoa NFH staff stock sturgeon on the Red Lake Reservation - Photo Credit: n/a

This spring the Red Lake Tribe of Chippewas of northern Minnesota was pleased to accept an award of $197,000 for lake sturgeon restoration on reservation lands. The Tribal Wildlife Grant Program provides a competitive funding opportunity for federally recognized tribal governments to develop and implement programs for the benefit of wildlife and their habitat, including species of Native American cultural or traditional importance and species that are not hunted or fished.

Lake sturgeon are culturally important to many Midwestern tribes. Lake sturgeon provided a source of protein to many tribes when fish were congregated on their spring spawning runs. This plentiful source of food after a long and hard winter sustained their health and wellbeing. The Genoa National Fish Hatchery has been a conservation partner of the Red Lake tribe for many years by providing fish to support tribal fish management goals and helping the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service meet its tribal trust responsibilities. The Genoa hatchery began raising lake sturgeon in the early 1990s and has recently implemented capital improvements that allow the hatchery to rear 40,000 fingerlings yearly to support restoration efforts throughout the Midwest.

Pat Brown, natural resource manager for the Red Lake Tribe, knew of these expanded capacities and began considering how to use the Genoa facility and its capabilities to bring lake sturgeon back to the Red River watershed on tribal lands. Through his efforts to secure funding through the Tribal Wildlife Grant application, and directing some funds to sturgeon propagation at Genoa, the Service was able to use its expertise in lake sturgeon biology and propagation to secure eggs from a local source in southern Canada, which were then transported to the Genoa hatchery for rearing. Currently, 10,000 5 inch fingerlings are growing and waiting to be planted in tribal waters in October of 2013. This will mark the sixth year of fingerling stocking in the ten year tribal sturgeon restoration plan. Other components to the grant and restoration program including post stocking survival assessments to monitor success. So far results have been encouraging, with post stocking survival high and growth rates comparable to the Lake Winnebago strain of lake sturgeon, a healthy sturgeon population located in central Wisconsin.

Contact Info: Doug Aloisi, 608-689-2605, Doug_Aloisi@fws.gov