Once-Extinct Sturgeon Released into Tennessee River for Earth Day
CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — It’s Earth Day in Chattanooga, and the Tennessee Aquarium is giving back.
“We are releasing some Lake Sturgeon that we have grown from little, tiny hatchlings out of the eggs for the past almost year,” said Tennessee Aquarium CEO Keith Sanford.
According to the Aquarium, Lake Sturgeon have remained largely the same since the Cretaceous Period, 66 million years ago.
Right now, the Sturgeon are about nine inches long, but, in time, they’ll grow to about nine feet.
“They are one of the oldest living fish in America. They can live to be 150 years old. They are the largest freshwater fish in the southeast. They can be up to nine feet long and weigh 300 pounds. And they are also special in the sense that they were gone from the rivers in the southeast for several decades,” said Reintroduction Biologist Meredith Harris.
At one point the sturgeon were extinct in the Tennessee River, due to over-fishing, habitat loss, and damming.
“When they’re gone, that leaves a very, very big void, and it’s very important that they are present to fulfill and balance out that ecosystem,” said Harris.
But now, with a little help from students at Calvin Donaldson Elementary, the population is in the hundreds of thousands.
“They can teach about this kind of stuff all day long in the classroom, but until they can get out there, get their hands on a fish in the water, and see the work that we’re doing, see the fish actually swim away into the river to become a wild fish, I don’t think that it can really hit home,” Harris added.
For some of these students, the fish they release into the river will be out there swimming for their entire lives.