Posted by – Shawn Keenan, Assistant City Planner
If you haven’t been to SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium lately, you might not have heard about the great work they’re doing to help protect Michigan’s Lake Sturgeon population. SEA LIFE Michigan has partnered with the Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division to help conserve these sea creatures that have been swimming our waters for more than 201 million years. Yes, that’s right – more than 201 million years.
It’s quite amazing to think that sturgeon were around during the Triassic Period which took place between 252 million and 201 million years ago, right before the Jurassic Period began. That means sturgeon were swimming around when the first dinosaurs started to roam the earth. What’s equally fascinating is that Michigan waters are home to these “living fossils” that can grow to 200 pounds and seven feet in length.
According to Shannon Mueller, Educational Specialist at SEA LIFE Michigan, Lake Sturgeon have become a threatened species because they have a slow life cycle compared to other fish. They take a long time to mature – at least 15 years for males and 20 years for females, and they only lay eggs once every three to five years. To make matters worse, these fish are highly susceptible to habitat destruction. SEA LIFE Michigan has joined the DNR’s effort to help conserve and rehabilitate the Lake Sturgeon population in Michigan.
Here is how the conservation program works. Lake Sturgeon are hatched in the spring at the Black Lake Fish Hatchery right here in Michigan. SEA LIFE Michigan then receives the young Lake Sturgeon where they grow over the winter before being released back into their native home in the spring. SEA LIFE Michigan provides environmental enrichment while they are on-site, which gives the young sturgeon the skills to survive in the wild. Through this program, SEA LIFE Michgian is able to help repopulate a threatened species, collect and report data on sturgeon behavior, growth, and husbandry best practices.
SEA LIFE Michigan offers classes that explore the species’ adaptations, anatomy, lifecycle and the reasons they have become endangered. Lake Sturgeon are extremely important to Michigan’s lakes because they eat decaying matter and invasive mussels!
We applaud SEA LIFE Michigan for their dedication to protecting this marvelous fish species that has survived for hundreds of millions of years. We hope they survive hundreds of millions more.
If you’re interested in joining the effort in helping protect and preserve Michgian’s local Lake Sturgeon population, you can follow some of these simple tips:
- Avoid eating sturgeon meat and caviar
- Clean all of your recreational equipment to help prevent the spread of invasive species and diseases
- Reduce litter on the ground and in the lakes
- Only fish for lake sturgeon if you have a permit and return any accidental catches of lake sturgeon
- Call the Report-All-Poaching number at 800-292-7800, if you witness illegal fishing or see anything that could harm Michigan’s sturgeon population.
To learn more about Michigan’s Lake Sturgeon, please visit the MDNR Fisheries Division Lake Sturgeon website at www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10364_18958_61264—,00.html.
For more information about SEA LIFE Michigan’s conservation programs, visit www.visitsealife.com/michigan.