There are 15 sturgeon being added to the Winnipeg River system this spring. They're in addition to the 12 brought in from Rainy River last year.
"They need certain places. They hang around the dams, where the current is strong," says Al Anderson of Dalles First Nation.
"There's very few of them... It's a fish that lives to be 100 years old. They've almost been wiped out," he adds.
When the Norman Dam was built in 1893, there were 20 gold mines operating within 15 miles of Rat Portage (later Kenora) and 123,750 pounds of caviar were harvested from sturgeon on Lake of the Woods, according to the Lake of the Woods Museum.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says lake sturgeon are the largest and most long-lived fish in Ontario. They date back to the time of dinosaurs over 200 million years ago, and they are an important and highly revered fish to First Nations communities.
The ministry adds lake sturgeon were heavily exploited for their meat and roe (caviar). In addition, pollution and alteration of their habitat -- including construction of dams and hydroelectric generating facilities -- in conjunction with exploitation were responsible for a dramatic decline in sturgeon stocks throughout Ontario.
The biological characteristics of the lake sturgeon -- for example late maturity, spawning periodicity, spawning site fidelity -- contribute to their vulnerability to stressors. Biologists with the ministry note most lake sturgeon populations in the province have not recovered more than 100 years after their decline.
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