The Department of Natural Resources, in collaboration with several partners, would like to invite the public to join in celebrating the first release of juvenile Lake Sturgeon from the New Richmond Facility into the Kalamazoo River on Sept. 24. The celebration begins at 10 a.m. at New Richmond Bridge County Park, 3160 Old Allegan Rd. in Fenville. The sturgeon release ceremony begins at 12 p.m. Guest parking is available on both the north and south sides of the Kalamazoo River.

The public is invited to mark the occasion with a full day of events, including a kids’ fishing event, guided tours of New Richmond Bridge Park and the lake sturgeon rearing facility, food, music, a turning of the historic New Richmond swing bridge, and, of course, the release of the juvenile lake sturgeon into the river.

The Lake Sturgeon Rearing Facility at New Richmond began operating in the spring of 2011, when it took in its first batch of Lake Sturgeon eggs from the Kalamazoo River. It took the work of many partners to secure funding and resources to make the facility possible. Partners include the Kalamazoo River chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow, Michigan Sea Grant, the Michigan DNR, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish band of Pottawatomi Indians and Allegan County Parks.

Lake Sturgeon inhabit large river and lake systems primarily in the Great Lakes basin, Hudson Bay and Mississippi River. The sturgeon has, and continues to represent, an important biological component of the Great Lakes fish community. By the early 1900s, many populations of Lake Sturgeon, which were once the dominant fish species in the Great Lakes, had been greatly reduced as a result of habitat loss, overfishing, the construction of dams and pollution.

Further compounding recovery of Lake Sturgeon populations is their slow and interrupted reproductive process. The small population of Lake Sturgeon in the Kalamazoo River system means that, without some assistance, it would take many years before the native population in the river would be able to climb to significant numbers.

The rearing facility at New Richmond will provide this assistance. Every spring eggs and larval fish will be captured from the Kalamazoo River and raised in the rearing facility. The young juveniles will then be raised in the rearing facility until late September, when they are eight to 10 inches in size. They will then be tagged and released into the river, where their larger size will afford them a much better chance at survival.

For more information about Lake Sturgeon and the rearing facility at New Richmond Bridge Park, please visit the Kalamazoo River chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow online at www.kazoosturgeon.org, or send an e-mail to kazoosturgeon@gmail.com.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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