Science & Technology



Wildlife agency: Sturgeon won't go on endangered species list

Tony Kennedy, Star Tribune on

Published in Science & Technology News

Fishing for lake sturgeon in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan is not a threat to the ancient species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded in its decision not to list the giant fish under the Endangered Species Act.

Monday's ruling after a yearlong review ends the possibility the largest freshwater fish in North America will be put off-limits to recreational anglers in the Upper Midwest.

"There will be a lot of excitement in the angling community about this decision,'' said Dave Olfelt, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Division director. "The decision is in alignment with the information we provided to the service."

The federal agency denied listing lake sturgeons as threatened or endangered anywhere in the country. It documented a great deal of successful conservation work in Minnesota and elsewhere. Fish stocking, dam removals and protection of spawning areas are helping sturgeon populations in the U.S. recover from past decades of overfishing, water pollution and habitat destruction, according to the federal review.

The move to deny the Endangered Species Act petition from the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity was cheered by the Minnesota fishing community.

Kevin and Jenn Hinrichs, owners of the Royal Dutchman sturgeon fishing resort near Baudette, were living in fear of an adverse ruling until the news broke Monday morning from the FWS's Bloomington, Minn., office. A ban on sturgeon fishing in the Rainy River, home to one of the most resurgent populations in the U.S., would undoubtedly put the resort out of business, Kevin Hinrichs said.


"I'm on top of the world," he said. "I could probably stand next to a mountain right now and chop it down with my hand."

Hinrichs said he was impressed with how state fisheries biologists from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan worked to document for the FWS how various conservation efforts, including ongoing projects, have aided lake sturgeon population recoveries over the past several decades. In Minnesota, for example, the DNR currently is working with the Lake Superior Aquarium and other partners on sturgeon rehabilitation efforts in the St. Louis River and its estuary along the western edge of Lake Superior.

Elsewhere in Minnesota, the DNR has received state and federal grant money to remove culverts and other barriers to migration that have been blocking sturgeon migration and spawning runs in the Upper Red River of the North watershed. The recovery in that system was recently documented with clear video footage of sturgeons congregating and spawning in the Ottertail River for the first time in 125 years.

"Our voices were heard," Hinrichs said.


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