The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) could soon be reintroducing breeding populations of sturgeon into Lake Erie. The lake was once home to a thriving population of lake sturgeon, but sightings these days are rare and the species is considered endangered in Ohio.
According to the Port Clinton News-Herald, the ODNR still gets about 15 to 20 reports of sturgeon sightings in the lake, but the fish’s heyday is long over. Sturgeon were once so plentiful in Lake Erie that they threatened the commercial fishing trade, and were even burned for fuel in steamships.
“There’s been quite a movement to reintroduce sturgeon, as well as protecting their populations on the Great Lakes,” said ODNR fisheries biologist Chris Vandergoot. “[It’s] a general movement to restore threatened and endangered species associated with improving water quality.”
The bottom-feeding fish also provide many benefits for native wildlife, such as carrying mussel eggs along the current. Officials say that they have no plans to reintroduce the species as a game fish when their numbers are still so low.
The Associated Press reported that ODNR officials also believe that juveniles from the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, and the St. Clair River may be finding their way into Lake Erie, but there are not enough to establish a breeding population.