About the Project

Lake Sturgeon Rehabilitation in the Kalamazoo River is a multi-agency project working towards protecting and increasing the population of Kalamazoo River lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens). The Tribe works with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Grand Valley State University and the Kalamazoo Chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow for rehabilitation efforts. Rehabilitation efforts are funded by the Tribe and FWS and led by Jason Lorenz and Liz Binoniemi-Smith.

Nmé (Sturgeon) is the top fish clan and an important resource to Native Americans. Sturgeon are revered as grandfathers and grandmothers, and sturgeon clan members are long-lived as are the fish. “The rehabilitation of lake sturgeon is a reflection of the Tribe’s present-day progression as a community and a Tribal Government,” says Gun Lake Tribal spokesman, James Nye.

The spatial habitat available to all life history stages of the Nmé has been greatly reduced, resulting in population declines. Access to upstream areas in the Kalamazoo River was eliminated with the construction of a hydroelectric dam which began operating in 1936. The dam not only blocks passageways, it also scours the area immediately downstream where Nmé spawning now occurs.

Although adult populations within the river have been assessed, there has not been any on-the-ground habitat restoration to support their population. Our first big habitat restoration effort was in late summer of 2016.

   

    

Through previous FWS Tribal Wildlife Grant funding, the Tribe and partners have confirmed Nmé spawning does occur, yet successful egg deposition and development is unlikely due to the high velocity and discharge at the spawning location. Eggs, not larvae, have been captured during drift surveys.

Critical objectives to be achieved within this project are:

  • Restoring habitat in the Kalamazoo River suitable for lake sturgeon spawning
  • Conduct egg deposition and larval drift surveys to assess reproductive success associated with current and restored spawning areas
  • Increase public knowledge of Nmé, Tribal culture, and the restoration efforts through public and Tribal educational outreach efforts