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Distribution of lake sturgeon in New York: 11 years of restoration management

January 1, 2011

Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) are native within the Lake Ontario drainage basin and listed as threatened by New York State. In 1995 the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) initiated restoration management of lake sturgeon. This management included both protection of extant populations and stocking of uninhabited historic waters with juvenile sturgeon. A list compiled by NYSDEC of observations of lake sturgeon from New York State waters for the period encompassing 1800–2005 was combined with recent observations through 2008 and formatted (Geographic Information System) to allow mapping of sturgeon geographical distribution. Distributions of pre- and post-restoration sturgeon were examined by occurrence and type of observation. Distribution patterns indicated lakes and rivers with current sturgeon presence have increased from five to eight, which was the first-phase goal of the New York Lake Sturgeon Recovery Plan. Lake sturgeon have started to expand into joining water to include the Indian R., Oneida R., Seneca R. and Oswego R. The protected historic populations in the Niagara R., Grasse R., St. Lawrence R., and Lakes Erie and Ontario continue to have low numbers of sturgeon observations. This summary of mapped lake sturgeon distribution information will help in guiding research assessments to waters containing substantial populations. These accessible reaches provide a generous advantage to the released juveniles as they move toward the next goal of restoration, spawning of sturgeon in targeted waters.