MASSENA - For over 100 million years, sturgeon have roamed the deepest depths of the worlds lakes and rivers. A passive behemoth that takes 20 years to mature, lake sturgeon can grow to dimensions of over six feet in length and well over 100 pounds.
A non predatory bottom-feeder they prospered on a diet of worms, insects, snails and in recent year lake sturgeon in the Great Lakes and St.Lawrence River have added the invasive zebra mussels to their diet.
But like so many of the largest beasts of the earth, the aquatic gentle giants were very vulnerable to decline by the effects of industrialization.
In the St. Lawrence River the drop in population accelerated with the construction of power dams and proliferation in shipping. Water quality dropped, habitats were damaged and in some areas the fish were overharvested for their meat and their eggs (caviar).
The sturgeon lived basically unchanged for 100 million years, according to Cornell University biologist Tom Brooking, who is also an active volunteer for New York Sturgeon for Tomorrow.
In 100 years all 27 species of the sturgeon are now endangered globally and some have disappeared.
New York Sturgeon for Tomorrow is part of wide-ranging cooperative effort which has enjoyed success stocking sturgeon in rivers and lakes all over the Empire State.
The cooperative effort is being carried out by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Environmental Conservation in conjunction with the United State Fish and Wildlife Service which is involving stocking sturgeon all over the country.
Netting results have proved that stocking has already produced substantial numbers in the Oswegatchie, Grasse, St. Regis and Black Rivers.
On Tuesday morning representatives from all three groups made the first stocking effort in the St. Lawrence River at the Greenbelt Boat Launch in Ogdensburg. Seven thousand sturgeon fingerlings, which had grown to a size of six inches in seven months, were released from trucks driven from the U..S Fish and Wildlife Fish Hatchery in Genoa, Wisc.
Later in the day 4,000 fingerlings were released at Hawkins Point in Massena and at Springs Park in the village.
The eggs had been taken from the spawning grounds near the power dam in Massena.
It is important to bring up sturgeon numbers to a higher level. Stocking is the best way to speed the recovery, said DEC biologist Douglas Carlson. We have had good results in other rivers in this area and hopefully in five years we will be to catch (net) good numbers of the fish in the St. Lawrence.
Other organizations involved in the state-wide stocking effort are the New York State Power Authority, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, the University of Rochester Medical Center, the USGS Science for an Unchanging World and Cornell University.
As a protected species sturgeon are not a gamefish but FISHCAP organizer Don Meisner says that the stocking of sturgeon was immensely important for his organization which is designed to lure anglers to St. Lawrence County, the St. Lawrence River Valley and New York.
Our job is not only to gain exposure for our fishing resources but also to protect it and make it better. We need efforts like this for things to continue, Mr. Meisner said at the stocking site on Tuesday.
Its fantastic. It is a dream come true to see things restored to what they once were.