I didn't wake up this morning expecting a bunch of fish to cheer me up, but it happened anyway. Lake sturgeon are doing their thing by making babies in Minnesota. Wildlife professionals are celebrating the first verified spawning in the Red River Basin in more than a hundred years.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service tweeted a thread on Friday in honor of the "feel good conservation story."
At a time when animal extinction news is only getting worse, the sturgeon are a tiny beacon of light. "Between 1880 and 1930, lake sturgeon were driven to extinction in Minnesota's Red River Basin and many other watersheds," the USFWS said. "Sturgeon are migratory fish with long lives and extremely slow reproductive cycles, making them highly vulnerable to overfishing and habitat fragmentation."
Spawning can be a bit of a frenzy for the fish. Female sturgeon lay hundreds of thousands of eggs in the water and males fertilize them. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shared a video this week of the sturgeon spawning underway.
A group of organizations, including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Indigenous groups and the USFWS, came together to implement a sturgeon reintroduction program in 1997. It takes 20 to 25 years for a female lake sturgeon to mature, and then they reproduce only once every four to six years.
It took more than just stocking the fish into waterways. The partners also removed old dams and cleared pathways so the fish could move through connected habitats of rivers and lakes. Next, it's a matter of looking forward and sustaining the recovery of a fish that's been called a "living dinosaur."
In a Facebook post this week, the Minnesota DNR asked wildlife viewers to be respectful of the fish. "It is unlawful to target or disturb spawning lake sturgeon," the agency said. The DNR asked for any observations of spawning behavior to be reported, so it can keep track of the fish's recovery. Here's to a better next 100 years for the lake sturgeon of the Red River Basin.