Prehistoric lake sturgeon populations have historically been found in north country rivers. Industrial pollutants, overfishing, and most importantly, dams have caused the species to drop to 1 percent of their historical numbers. What can we do in the north country to bring this fish back?
Lake sturgeon migrate upstream every spring to spawn, seeking rapids to lay their eggs. The fast-moving water oxygenates the baby sturgeon and protects them from fungal infections. Dams are generally located on rapids, removing these critical breeding habitats, and act as a physical barrier. As a result, lake sturgeon numbers have not rebounded, despite the fishery in New York state being closed for decades.
But we can all agree that hydropower is a good source of alternative energy, so removing all dams to save lake sturgeon is not an option. Instead, hydropower companies need to take initiative and implement technology that will help lake sturgeon reach their spawning grounds.
Passageway technology is a potential solution to aid in the upstream/downstream movement of lake sturgeon. There are many different types of passageway technologies that have been designed to help migratory fish, and one that north country dams could install are fish elevators. These downstream passage devices transport fish up and down dams so they can freely migrate to and from various habitats during their life cycle.
Environmental stewardship is critical today as natural habitats are shrinking at an alarming rate. The hydropower industry is comprised of multimillion-dollar companies. If they are going to obstruct rivers, they need to compensate for their actions. Lake sturgeon are a threatened species, and their survival relies on getting around dams.
Hydropower companies need to take responsibility and get involved in supporting and implementing technologies to support local conservation initiatives. Environmental stewardship needs to be a priority of hydropower companies. Biodiversity is important to the health and continued functioning of New York water bodies.
As community member, you have the power to help oversee changes. Lets keep hydropower companies transparent and responsible stewards of the environment!