Lake Sturgeon Distribution in the Time of COVID-19

Our world has changed dramatically in the past few months. Even in the world of fish production. In a typical year, the Genoa National Fish Hatchery (GNFH) would go off station to collect eggs from 6 river strains of wild lake sturgeon to raise to fingerling size to reduce predation. Then they would be stocked in a number of different locations to restore lake sturgeon within its historic range. This year in the middle of a global pandemic all off-station travel was ceased in order to protect staff and others from the novel virus. Only one lake sturgeon egg take was actually accomplished in New York out of the 6 active programs that the station is involved in. This was due to its occurrence happening in early June, when restrictions were easing in upstate New York. Our partners in Conservation, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, (NYDEC) with the assistance of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s New York Field Office (NYFO) collected and shipped the eggs overnight via FEDEX to the station in order for us to continue this restoration effort in Calendar Year 2020. The eggs were in great shape and hatched out well. So well that surplus fish were available for shipment back the state of New York. In a normal year, we would load up the smaller surplus fish in August and drive them out to our partners in New York as a precursor to the final distribution of an additional stocking of 7 inch fish in mid-October.
This year with travel still unavailable a new plan had to be formulated. As with the eggs, the only mode of transport available to us was via FedEx. Not having shipped lake sturgeon with this method over this long distance by air was a little disconcerting at best. Using the limited information available in “grey literature” from other species of fish we set out to document the actual effectiveness of this method of transportation on lake sturgeon small fingerlings of less than 2.5 inches. To date, the station has shipped 10,000 small fingerlings using this method back to New York for stocking by New York DEC and FWS’s NYFO personnel by priority overnight airmail with minimal loss. In a normal year, this method would not be considered given the uncertainties of air freight travel, but in this instance, desperation leads to innovation. Through 20 boxes of freight, 10,000 2 month old fish measuring 2-2.5 inches were distributed in their native habitat. In the year of 2020, we are going to try to count this one as a win.
By: Doug Aloisi












Top- Lake Sturgeon fry pre-shipping. Bottom- Boxed lake sturgeon fry – Photo Credit:Doug Aloisi/USFWS