Lake sturgeon are long lived, large bodied, late to sexually mature, and spawn only intermittently. These characteristics make this species especially vulnerable to overfishing, and slow to recover from the severe declines they experienced in the past. In New York State, overfishing and habitat degradation led to severe declines in many of the state's lake sturgeon spawning populations, resulting in listing as a state threatened species in 1983. While much research has been conducted on lake sturgeon in the past twenty years, we still lack sufficient knowledge of specific spawning locations for some populations, as well as population abundances and age structure for many of the populations. To change the New York State listed status of this species from Threatened to Special Concern, or to remove it from the list altogether, there needs to be sufficient self-sustaining populations in the state to warrant that change. Defining these populations and an accompanying target number for recovery proved challenging since lake sturgeon occupy wide ranging and variable habitats across New York. In many cases, smaller spawning aggregations may be part of a larger metapopulation. To accommodate these variances, we defined Management Units across New York as a descriptor of these metapopulations. Self-sustaining populations of lake sturgeon are defined in this plan as having an estimate of at least 750 spawning adults across all spawning aggregations within a Management Unit and detection of at least three years of wild reproduction in a five-year period. A stocking program by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has been in place since 1993 to achieve these goals. Lake sturgeon have been re-established across the state and current stocking is seeking to enhance the genetic diversity of the stocked populations. Naturally recovering populations are also being monitored in several Great Lakes locations. Spawning habitat enhancement is taking place at several locations in the St. Lawrence River, and the Seneca River. NYSDEC, USFWS, US Geological Survey (USGS), Cornell University, Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe (SRMT), many local governments, non-governmental organizations, and utilities are working toward these goals. Contributions from all will be necessary to accomplish recovery of this species.
Read the Lake Sturgeon Recovery Plan (2.9 MB PDF)