Lake Sturgeon Restoration: A Sense of Stewardship
BY ANGELA BARAN, GENOA NFH
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has been working with the White Earth Nation in Minnesota for over a decade on lake sturgeon restoration in the Red River of the North Basin. Lake sturgeon were historically harvested for food, but over harvesting, construction of dams throughout the river system and poor water quality resulted in the drastic decline of the species from this watershed. The last adult sturgeon harvested was recorded in 1926.
The partnership between the tribes and the USFWS has led to restoration efforts and stocking recommendations to produce a self-sustaining population. Each year, White Earth purchases lake sturgeon eggs from the Rainy River First Nations Tribe, collected from wild spawned lake sturgeon in the Rainy River. These eggs are then transported to Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) to be hatched out and grown over the summer for fall stocking. Before the eggs are placed into hatching jars inside the Sturgeon Culture building, the wild collected eggs are disinfected in an iodine solution. This process helps to prevent contamination of the hatchery from possible diseases in the source water. From June to October, the sturgeon will grow from approximately a quarter of an inch at hatching to an average size of six inches at stocking.
Genoa NFH has been working with the White Earth Nation since 2001, resulting in over 140,000 lake sturgeon stocked into the lakes and rivers of the Red River Basin. This culturally important species is embraced by the public at annual stocking events, with tribal members holding a stocking ceremony and local schools participating in the release of the fish. On October 22nd, 2013, Genoa NFH delivered lake sturgeon to White Earth, with fish going into White Earth Lake and Round Lake. Two local schools participated in the stocking event, with students releasing a sturgeon into the water. This annual participation has led to a great sense of ownership among the next generation of future stewards of these great natural resources. The public involvement has also led to an open line of communication with the tribal fisheries department. Reports and pictures of lake sturgeon caught while fishing for other species show they are surviving well and are reaching sizes over 48 inches in length.