- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Stephen Lyn Bales, editor

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sturgeon released/ Ijams gets a pair of fingerlings

Kathlina Alford, Thom Benson and Dr. Bernie Kuhajda with the Tennessee Aquarium (right, all in dark blue) help Gap Creek fifth graders release young sturgeon into the French Broad. 

Aquatic biologists from the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute (TNACI), Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the University of Tennessee’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries released 1,100 lake sturgeon last Wednesday at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge upstream from Ijams.

This east Knox County location on the French Broad River has been identified as favorable habitat for this species, Acipenser fulvescens, which is listed as endangered within Tennessee’s waters.

Gap Creek fifth grader with
young sturgeon

Students from a fifth grade class at Gap Creek Elementary in Knoxville helped with this release. 

These students have been caring for a juvenile lake sturgeon since the beginning of the school year. Each day the Gap Creek students record data about the fish including feedings, water temperature, pH, ammonia levels, length and behavioral observations.

These hands-on classroom activities and assisting with this release increases their understanding of freshwater conservation. They also discover how the health of the river and human health are connected.

The Tennessee Aquarium and its partners have reintroduced more than 127,000 lake sturgeon to the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers since 1998.

Ijams staffer Peg Beute and other local Water Quality Forum members attended the very first major release just below Douglas Dam on July 19, 2000.

The goal of the long-term “Saving the Sturgeon” program is to restore a self-sustaining population of lake sturgeon in Tennessee. So far this effort has proven very successful with anglers reporting these fish downstream in Alabama and Kentucky (yes, the Tennessee River eventually flows north into the Bluegrass State.)

Biologists have also been encouraged by recent surveys to monitor the population between Knoxville and Chattanooga.

These impressive fish are true river giants. Some may grow to more than eight feet in length. Lake sturgeon have also been known to live nearly 150 years, feeding mainly on bottom dwelling crayfishes, mussels, aquatic insect larvae and small fishes.

Students line up to receive a "net full" of young sturgeon.

Students release their young sturgeons. 
Some of the 1,100 sturgeon sampling the taste of the French Broad River for the first time.
What did the sturgeon fingerlings look like? 

Well, you can visit Ijams and find out. 

Ijams veterinarian, Dr. Louise Conrad and Peg Beute attended the release to bring two fingerlings back to the nature center. They will be on display in the Exhibit Hall until they outgrow their aquarium home. (The last sturgeon that lived in the Ijams Exhibit Hall moved on to a larger tank at the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans. 

Two lake sturgeon fingerlings now on display in the Ijams Exhibit Hall. 

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