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LAKE STURGEON FACT SHEET
Scientific Name: Acipenser fulvescens

  • Scientists believe these ancient fish appeared more than 100 million years ago. It is thought that the sturgeon first appeared in the upper Cretaceous period of the Mesozoic Era, at about the same time that the dinosaurs disappeared. Their survival rate has been attributed to their large size and large egg production.
  • Today, lake sturgeon live in large freshwater rivers and lakes in the United States and Canada.
  • The lake sturgeon species is rare and nearing extinction in the Coosa, Missouri, Ohio and middle Mississippi drainages.
  • Overharvesting, dams and pollution have combined to drastically reduce the lake sturgeon population worldwide. § Sturgeon are exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing, largely due to its slow reproductive cycle.
  • Female sturgeon require 15-20 years or more to mature. They spawn only every 4-6 years during its 50-100 year life span. Females are known to outlive the males.
  • The sturgeon normally leave lakes in the spawning migration not long after the spawning rivers are free of ice. They have even been known to move under the ice.
  • One of the largest lake sturgeon recorded weighed 310 pounds and was 2.441 meters long.
  • Sturgeon are primarily bottom dwellers, and feed on worms, insect larvae, snails, clams, some fish and fish eggs, bits of aquatic plants and other litter from the floor of a lake or stream.
  • Lake sturgeon can weigh anywhere from 10-80 lbs. Some may grow to weigh several hundred pounds.
  • In 1947, a 225 pound sturgeon was found dead on the shores of Rush Lake in Minnesota.
  • Lake sturgeon's meat sells more per pound than any of our other freshwater species. Their flesh is firm, white, rich, and popular when smoked. Another expensive product of the sturgeon is their eggs, known as caviar.


Caviar consumption is on the rise. . . .
  • In the 19th Century, the United States lead the world in the production of caviar; 60,000 pounds a year was from Lake Michigan alone.
  • The Caspian Sea, the world's largest lake, is more than 374,000 square kilometers and 80 percent to 90 percent of the world's sturgeon make their home in this lake. Dwelling in the lake has put sturgeon in danger of extinction due to high international demand for caviar.
  • The unripe or green eggs used for caviar are usually removed from the female by opening her abdominal cavity.
  • Gelatin isinglass was once extracted from the sturgeon's swim bladder. Isinglass was used as a clarifying agent in the making of wine and beer, as a cement for pottery, to set jams and jellies and for waterproofing. Such intense fishery for the lake sturgeon species has reduced populations to a level from which they have never recovered.
  • The number of adult sturgeon living in the Caspian Sea has declined 70 percent from 142 million in 1978 to 43.5 million in 1994.
  • Ninety percent of sturgeon killed contain no eggs because they are unfertilized mature females. More scientific ways of extracting the eggs without killing the sturgeon have been developed but are not implemented when the fish are caught illegally.
  • The Russian news reported that up to 90 percent of the catch from the Caspian is poached.
  • There are not enough lake sturgeons being left to reproduce and maintain their population.
  • Today, the higher demand for caviar has put the sturgeon in grave danger.
  • Alternative methods are being implemented to successfully produce caviar without harming the fish population. Farming of sturgeon in North America is a new way that the wild sturgeon can go unaffected by the world's ever-present caviar demands. Such methods are encouraged and increasing.
  • Today, all sturgeon are included in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species appendices beginning April 1, 1998. The CITES are responsible for providing regulations regarding import and export of the sturgeon caviar. This will limit the further endangerment of the species by removing them from international trade.

 

 

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