Buffalo Harbor Lake Sturgeon
Project Title
Monitoring Habitat Use of Lake Sturgeon in Buffalo Harbor, Lake Erie
Project Code
Project Duration
May 2014 - August 2018
Project Description
Within the past century, sturgeon species have become imperiled throughout their native range (Rochard et al. 1990). More specifically, populations of Lake Sturgeon Acipencer fulvescens, the largest and one of the most long-lived freshwater species endemic to North America (Scott and Crossman 1979), have declined throughout the Great Lakes basin. In Lake Erie, Lake Sturgeon were commercially harvested throughout the mid- to late- 1800s with peak harvest reaching 2,359 metric tons in 1885 (Baldwin et al. 1979). Since the early 1900s, Lake Sturgeon abundances have declined-likely due to a combination of overexploitation, habitat alteration, and water quality issues. Universally, sturgeon recovery strategies indicate that knowledge of habitat is inadequate, with critical information gaps (Hay-Chmielewski and Whelan 1997; Holey et al. 2000; Golder Associates 2011). In recent years, recovery strategies and purported sightings of this species have created a growing interest in this species among researchers and the general public. A remnant population of naturally reproducing Lake Sturgeon exists in the eastern basin of Lake Erie near Buffalo Harbor. Although spawning individuals are readily captured in this region, habitat associations, movement, migrations, and behavior of these sturgeon have not yet been examined. Additionally, there is interest in identifying other potential spawning areas of historic significance within the eastern basin of Lake Erie. Using acoustic telemetry, our study seeks to examine seasonal habitat associations and movement of sub-adult and adult Lake Sturgeon. To date, we have fitted 62 Lake Sturgeon with internal acoustic transmitters. Their initially movements post release are monitored by an array of 63 acoustic receivers strategically positioned throughout suspected spawning habitat within the eastern basin of Lake Erie and the upper Niagara River. Data from this study will identify preferred spawning habitat and determine temporal usage of such habitat which will help inform other habitat restoration efforts throughout Lake Erie.
Management Benefits
Participating Organizations