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The Great Lake Sturgeon

Nancy Auer
Dave Dempsey
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    The Great Lake Sturgeon
    Book Description:

    The first book of its kind to explore this magnificent creature, this collected volume captures many aspects of the remarkable Great Lakes sturgeon, from the mythical to the critically real. Lake sturgeon are sacred to some, impressive to many, and endangered in the Great Lakes. A fish whose ancestry reaches back millions of years and that can live over a century and grow to six feet or more, the Great Lakes lake sturgeon was once considered useless, then overfished nearly to extinction. Though the fish is slowly making a comeback thanks to the awareness-raising efforts of Native Americans, biologists, and sturgeon supporters, it remains to be seen if conservation and stewardship will continue to the degree this remarkable animal deserves. Blending history, biology, folklore, environmental science, and policy, this accessible book seeks to reach a broad audience and tell the story of the Great Lakes lake sturgeon in a manner as diverse as its subject.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-366-1
    Subjects: General Science, Environmental Science, Aquatic Sciences, Zoology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Prefaces
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Sturgeon: The Great Lakes Buffalo
    (pp. 1-8)

    The book of natural resource exploitation in the United States and Canada since European settlement contains multiple illustrations of a ravenous human hunger for fish and wildlife species that extinguished, or nearly so, that which it desired. Even the most casual student of conservation has heard the legend of the passenger pigeon. It goes like this: in the first half of the 1800s, unimaginable numbers of birds darken the sky as they pass overhead. After 50 years of unchecked market hunting followed by futile conservation work, the last passenger pigeon dies in a Cincinnati zoo in 1916.

    The passenger pigeon...

  5. Form and Function in Lake Sturgeon
    (pp. 9-20)

    The lake sturgeon, Acipenser fulvescens, was first described in 1818 by a botanist from Turkey named Constantine S. Rafinesque. He encountered lake sturgeon during a survey of the flora and fauna of the Ohio River (Rafinesque 1820). The lake sturgeon is the only endemic sturgeon of the genusAcipenserfound throughout the three closely related, freshwater drainage basins in North America, those of the Mississippi River, Great Lakes, and Hudson Bay (Ferguson and Duckworth 1997). Eight other species or subspecies of sturgeons in two genera are recognized in North America (table 1).

    The sturgeons are one of the oldest fishes...

  6. N’me
    (pp. 21-26)

    I have been asked in a good way to share the influences and perspectives driving modern tribal resource management. In honoring this request, I am proud to share with you a project that is a premiere expression of modern-day tribal sovereignty, then’merestoration project of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

    Before I attempt to describe this project in greater detail, let me first explain the inspiration utilized in the creation of our sturgeon management plan, an Indigenous belief structure known asBaamaadziwin, which translates into “living in a good and respectful way.”

    The Anishinaabek (the name in...

  7. The Lake Sturgeon as Survivor and Integrative Indicator of Changes in Stressed Aquatic Systems in the Laurentian Basin
    (pp. 27-58)

    Our Laurentian Basin is ancient geologically, and the lake sturgeon lineage in our basin is ancient biologically. During the last five centuries, much of the southerly half of this basin’s waters has been transformed—mostly by humans of European origin—from a vast, clean, cascading “riverine system” to clotted strings of confined and dirty reservoirs and lakes with deformed tributaries and “connecting channels,” that is, into what we may term a “reservoirine system” (see box 1).

    The living part of the ecosystem in most of the southerly waters has changed from intricately organized and elaborately choreographed systems of native, freshwater,...

  8. Habitat, Foods, and Feeding
    (pp. 59-78)

    As the name implies, lake sturgeon are commonly found in lakes, and because of their biology they occupy large lakes. The Great Lakes lie at the center of the species native range (Harkness and Dymond 1961) and these lakes once supported a large concentration of lake sturgeon. Lake sturgeon were in all likelihood one of the most abundant large-bodied fish species in the Great Lakes prior to extensive settlement of the region, with estimates of abundance exceeding 16 million fish in all Great Lakes combined. The lake sturgeon commercial fishery that developed in the Great Lakes

    provides an indication of...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. Recognizing the Genetic Population Structure of Lake Sturgeon Stocks
    (pp. 79-92)

    Migration patterns and the presence of corridors play a large role in defining different stocks of fish. Groups of fish may be frequently migrating between different locations and may even be reproducing with the fish they encounter at the new location. On the other hand, fish may move around quite a bit when not spawning, but when it comes time to reproduce, they go to the same spot each time. It can often be hard to detect migration (with resulting reproduction at the new location) through field techniques. That’s where theories of population genetics can help.

    If populations are not...

  11. Restoration and Renewal: A Sturgeon Tale
    (pp. 93-100)

    I can still remember the day I fell in love with the lake sturgeon. I was passing through Tupelo, Mississippi, visiting my little sister in October 2001 on my way to the National Rails to Trails Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. She was very pregnant with my first niece, Sienna, who turned out to be unabashedly obsessed with fish, wildlife, nature, and science before she could even talk. Since it was my first time in Tupelo, I wanted to go exploring. We went on an adventure to see what we could see, and struck gold. Beyond being the birthplace of...

  12. The St. Lawrence River Lake Sturgeon: Management in Quebec, 1940s–2000s
    (pp. 101-132)

    The lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) easily distinguishes itself from other fish in many aspects: its particular physical appearance, the time frame of its life cycle, and the historic importance, veneration, and respect given it by the First Nations. Another very distinctive characteristic is the similarity between the lake sturgeon’s and the human life cycle: contrary to the other fish species, whose life cycle is short or at least much shorter, the number of years needed to produce a generation is about the same for both, and 100-year-old specimens could still be fished or sampled some decades ago in the St....

  13. Bringing Us Back to the River
    (pp. 133-146)

    The history ofnméin the Great Lakes is a story of harmony, tragedy, and an opportunity for redemption. The tragedy has been well documented by historians, academics, and writers chronicling a time when sturgeon were an abundant member of the lakes and their later spiral toward near extinction (Auer 1999; Tody 1974; Schoolcraft 1970; Harkness and Dymond 1961). I have sat through many lectures on sturgeon where I was presented with the same exhausting information about how their habitat was destroyed, how they were overharvested, and why the current outlook is so bleak. I believe it is time for...

  14. Sturgeon for Tomorrow
    (pp. 147-152)

    One of the most common questions I’ve been asked over the years is, “How did you become so involved with the lake sturgeon?”

    I grew up logging hundreds of hours in an ice shanty on Black, Burt, and Mullett lakes in northern Michigan’s Cheboygan County. My late father and brother Dock McCall and James McCall taught me to fish from an early age. I am so blessed they took me into the wilderness and upon our great waters, and for letting me roam free and discover earth’s natural treasures, beauty, and peace. I have never lost the wanderlust for life...

  15. The Relationship between Lake Sturgeon Life History and Potential Sensitivity to Sea Lamprey Predation
    (pp. 153-172)

    The lake sturgeonAcipenser fulvescens,a species native to the Laurentian Great Lakes, has a unique life history. Like other sturgeons, lake sturgeon are a slow-growing, long-lived species with delayed maturation; first spawning for males typically occurs between ages 12 and 15, while females become mature between ages 18 and 27. In addition, lake sturgeon spawn intermittently, with females spawning only once every four to nine years and males spawning every one to three years (Roussow 1957; Scott and Crossman 1973; Fortin, Dumont, and Guénette 1996; Bruch 1999; Bruch, Dick, and Choudhury 2001). Although these life-history traits are advantageous for...

  16. Future Management and Stewardship of Lake Sturgeon
    (pp. 173-186)

    Aldo Leopold is considered to have been one of the earliest conservation activists in the United States and is well known for his best-sellingA Sand County Almanac, which calls for all humans to live with a “land ethic.” Doing so requires that we consider ourselves and all other organisms as valuable and integral partners within an ecosystem community (Leopold 1966). Because he worked for the U.S. Forest Service and wrote of a “land ethic,” we often think of Leopold’s focus mostly in terms of terrestrial systems. What few know is that some of his first employment obligations concerned aquatic...

  17. About the Authors
    (pp. 187-192)