A Cheboygan County organization is gathering volunteers to help protect one of the most valuable natural resources in Michigan.
The Black River Chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow (SFT) is looking for people, groups, businesses and organizations to help guard the sturgeon.
Each spring, mature lake sturgeon, a threatened fish species in Michigan and rare throughout the United States, briefly leave the Black Lake in Cheboygan County, seeking sites in the remote and scenic Black River to spawn.
When spawning on the shallow rocky beds of the River, the fish become vulnerable to those who might be tempted to take one illegally.
For more than a decade the Sturgeon Guarding Program , has proven overwhelmingly that citizens who watch over the river and report any suspicious activity have greatly reduced the unlawful take of this valuable fish, thereby helping to assure protection and future population growth of the species.
â??For a period of about a month, from late April through late May, these incredible fish, which can live up to 100 years and weigh over 200 pounds, swim up the Black River to spawn. Such a sight is amazing to witness, but even more rewarding is the role caring citizens can play to ensure the protection and enhancement of the sturgeon population in Black Lake,â?? said Ann Feldhauser, who helps to coordinate the volunteer aspect of the program.
While the sturgeon are in the river spawning, volunteers stand watch and, if necessary, use cellular phones provided by SFT, to contact Conservation Officers with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE), who patrol the spawning areas of the Black River in support of the Sturgeon for Tomorrow effort. In addition, Fisheries Biologists with the DNR, Michigan State University, and other agencies are on hand during the spawning season, collecting biological data.
Guarding shifts are available for those volunteers wish to help watch over the spawning sturgeon, as well as help to collect data on the number of fish seen in the river. Coordinators will be on site to assist volunteers and answer questions.
Volunteers are encouraged to camp along the Black River to assure overnight presence of sturgeon guards. New this year for those who camp at the River for more than a few days during the spawning season and help to coordinate other volunteers during that time, incentives are being offered, including tickets to the annual SFT banquet, name tags and other rewards.
â??We are always so appreciative of those who come to help watch over the sturgeon during this critical time,â?? said Brenda Archambo, Coordinator of the SFT Program. â??Many people from the Black River area support the Sturgeon Guarding Program, but we also get many enthusiastic helpers from Lansing, Detroit and the Upper Peninsula to fill guarding shifts. Everyone is encouraged to come and witness this amazing spectacle.â??
The Lake Sturgeon, a remnant of the dinosaur age, is considered a species of special concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a threatened species in North America by the American Fisheries Society, a globally rare species by the Nature Conservancy, and a threatened species in the State of Michigan.
The Lake Sturgeon population in Michigan is estimated to be about one percent of its former abundance. The Huron-Erie corridor was, at one time, one of the most productive waters for lake sturgeon in North America.
To learn more about Lake Sturgeon CLICK HERE .
To volunteer your time to protect the sturgeon contact: Ann Feldhauser at 906-346-9511 or Brenda Archambo at 231-625-2776.