Biologists from the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute (TNACI), Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the University of Tennessee’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries released 1,100 Lake Sturgeon on October 9, 2013. This reintroduction took place near Knoxville at the Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge. This location on the French Broad River has been identified as favorable habitat for this species, Acipenser fulvescens, which is listed as endangered within Tennessee’s waters.
Students from a 5th grade class at Gap Creek Elementary in Knoxville were very excited to help with the release. They learned how biologists will use sonic tags to track the movement of lake sturgeon during the next phase of monitoring, which will begin in November.
These students have been caring for a juvenile lake sturgeon since the beginning of the school year. Each day the Gap Creek students record data about the fish including feedings, water temperature, pH, ammonia levels, length and behavioral observations.
These hands-on classroom activities and assisting with this release increases their understanding of freshwater conservation. They also discover how the health of the river and human health are connected.
The Tennessee Aquarium and its partners have reintroduced more than 127,000 lake sturgeon to the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers since 1998. The goal of the long-term “Saving the Sturgeon” program is to restore a self-sustaining population of lake sturgeon in Tennessee. So far this effort has proven very successful with anglers reporting these fish downstream in Alabama and Kentucky. Biologists have also been encouraged by recent surveys to monitor the population between Knoxville and Chattanooga.
These impressive fish are true river giants. Some may grow to more than eight feet in length. Lake sturgeon have also been known to live nearly 150 years, feeding mainly on bottom dwelling crayfishes, mussels, aquatic insect larvae and small fishes.