Southeastern Fishes Council
Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes

Georgia-Raised Lake Sturgeon Planned For Tennessee Release
June 5, 2007

Release from:
Associated Press

Biologists reintroducing lake sturgeon to their native waters plan a release Thursday of 250 fish, some as big as 20 pounds and 5 feet long, officials announced Tuesday.

The program, which began in 1998 and involves several agencies, has released smaller fish in the past. These sturgeon are among the largest ever released in the area.

The fish were raised at the Tennessee Aquarium Research Institute's hatchery in Cohutta, Ga., and will be released into the French Broad River at the Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge near Knoxville.

"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," institute director Anna George said.

The Lake Sturgeon Reintroduction partnership includes the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Valley Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, World Wildlife Fund and the aquarium's institute.

Since 1998, more than 50,000 sturgeon have been released into the Tennessee River watershed.

Lake sturgeon look virtually unchanged since days of the dinosaur and feed on plankton. They can live to be 100 years old. The species was once found throughout the Tennessee River system but disappeared because of overfishing, dam construction and water pollution.

Officials from the aquarium in Chattanooga said releasing larger fish will help bring the ecosystem closer to its natural state. Some of the sturgeon being released are nearly 9 years old, close to a reproductive age that ranges from 12 to 15.

"It might only be a few years before young sturgeon are born in our river for the first time in 50 years," George said. "With luck and a clean river some of these magnificent fish could grow to six feet in length and weigh over 100 pounds."