Lake Sturgeon Rehabilitation
About the Project
Nmé (Sturgeon) is the top fish clan and is an important resource to Native Americans. Sturgeon are revered as grandfathers and grandmothers. Sturgeon clan members share many characteristics of the fish including long life, slow and deliberate movement and being very knowledgeable. Culturally, they serve as the spiritual advisors and mediators for the tribe and are sought out for their wisdom. “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 passageway, 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.
In 2019, the Environmental Department began working on the Grand River population in an effort to locate and track adult lake sturgeon.
Critical objectives to be achieved are:
- Identify and map critical habitat for different life stages of lake sturgeon
- Restore 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
- Operate the lake sturgeon rearing facility at Allegan County New Richmond Park
- Increase public knowledge of Nmé, Tribal culture and the restoration efforts through public and Tribal educational outreach efforts