Lake Sturgeon Rehabilitation
Comprehensive lake sturgeon rehabilitation will likely be achieved only on a basin-wide scale, either for one of the Great Lakes or the entire basin; thus rehabilitation will require the coordination of multiple research and management agencies. GLFT lake sturgeon funding will be used in a basin-wide approach, with a strong emphasis on efforts that foster the development of new or existing partnerships among fishery agencies and researchers.
The GLFT has sponsored two workshops to identify research priorities regarding lake sturgeon rehabilitation. The workshop convened in 2000 identified four primary research priorities:
- Status assessment and rapid survey process (consolidation of existing information, design of indicators and survey strategies to provide comprehensive and system-wide inventories, and coordination of periodic census efforts)
- Habitat studies (filling information gaps related to habitat utilization by various life-history stages; detailed habitat classification and inventory)
- Fish passage technology for lake sturgeon (design of safe and effective upstream and downstream passage of dams)
- Propagation techniques and strategy development (research and development to improve hatchery production and stocking success)
The workshop convened in 2011 further defined the research priorities regarding fish passage technology for lake sturgeon in to the following categories:
- Lake sturgeon behavior during migration and passage: Specific research activities in this category may include telemetry studies that seek to determine if upstream/downstream migratory routes are random or based on stream flow or the behavior of adults and juveniles after entering impoundments.
- Physiological consequences of passage: Recent work suggests that passage compromises the physiological condition of sturgeon in general, but individual sturgeon do recover well from a single passage attempt. Research in this category would benefit from studies seeking to determine the physiological impacts of multiple passage attempts including trap and transfer techniques, and differences related to size, sex, and reproductive condition.
- Passage design, technology, implementation, and development of operational windows: There are many inventive engineering solutions that can be applied to lake sturgeon passage efforts. However, the implementation of these solutions would be greatly enhanced with studies seeking to tie specific technologies with survival rates of adults, juveniles, and larvae.
- Advancement of technologies that improve assessment and monitoring: Perhaps one of the largest gaps to lake sturgeon passage involves how to measure success. Thus, research attempting to deploy novel techniques to quantify movement and theoretical or empirical research attempting to tie passage efforts to population level parameters (i.e., recruitment) would be desirable.
Additional priorities include:
- Research that explores and responds to recommendations (including the endorsed stocking strategies) and research priorities of the Lake Sturgeon Task Group of the Lake Michigan Committee (GLFC).
- Research that supports existing rehabilitation plans, such as those reviewed in the GLFT-sponsored lake sturgeon workshops. For more information, see the Research and Assessment Needs to Restore Lake Sturgeon in the Great Lakes (2000), and Enhancing Lake Sturgeon Passage at Hydroelectric Facilities in the Great Lakes (2011) documents.
- Efforts that develop management capacity to implement research recommendations or increase partnership and data sharing related to lake sturgeon rehabilitation.