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Restoring a Tennessee River Giant
Tennessee Aquarium Continues Work to Protect
and Preserve Important Native Species

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Tennessee Aquarium
Todd Stailey

Chattanooga, Tenn. (June 5th, 2007) – Another group of hand-raised Lake Sturgeon are about to make a big splash in the Tennessee River watershed.  That’s because some of these fish are among the largest ever released into their native waters, bringing the ecosystem another step closer to its natural state.

Thanks to an ongoing partnership led by the Tennessee Aquarium, 250 Lake Sturgeon will be introduced into the French Broad River, some weighing in at 20 pounds and up to five feet in length.  “Because of their size, these fish have about a four times greater chance at survival in the river than the smaller sturgeon which have been introduced in the past,” according to Dr. Anna George, director of the Tennessee Aquarium Research Institute.

The fish have been raised at the Aquarium’s research facility in Cohutta, Georgia.  Some of the sturgeon are nearly nine years old, which puts them very close to reproductive maturity.

“It takes a Lake Sturgeon anywhere from 12 to 15 years to start reproducing.  With some of the fish we are releasing nearing that age range, it might only be a few years before young sturgeon are born in our river for the first time in 50 years,” adds Dr. George. “With luck and a clean river some of these magnificent fish could grow to six feet in length and weigh over 100 pounds.  And it’s not impossible for them to survive in the Tennessee River for over 100 years.” 

The largest Lake Sturgeon specimen on record was caught in the Great Lakes.  That fish weighed a whopping 310 pounds and had grown to an immense eight feet in length.  However, the water in the Tennessee River is too warm to support a Lake Sturgeon of that size.

The southeastern United States is one of the most ecologically diverse places on earth.  The natural beauty of this area is especially unique because of its aquatic diversity.  While much of that beauty is easily visible, protecting what’s unseen below the waterline is just as important.  “There is a crisis in freshwater habitats in this country and around the world.  We’re focused on a part of our environment that no one else considers – freshwater and the plants and animals that live in it,” says Dr. George.

The Lake Sturgeon Reintroduction partnership includes representatives from Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Valley Authority, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, World Wildlife Fund and TNARI.  These partners have been working together since 1998 to re-establish Lake Sturgeon to its native waters.  Since 1998 more than 50,000 sturgeon have been released into the Tennessee River watershed, many of which have been tagged and recaptured years later.

The sturgeon will be picked up Thursday, June 7th at the TNARI facility in Cohutta, Georgia and transported to the Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge for release in the French Broad River just east of Knoxville the same day.

Click to download high res image
Tennessee Aquarium
Todd Stailey


The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $19.95 per adult and $10.95 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $7.95 per adult and $5.50 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $24.95 for adults and $14.95 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased online at or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities. Members enjoy unlimited visits and other benefits. Call 267-FISH to join.

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