World Rivers Day: Seneca Park Zoo’s Work to Conserve the Lake Sturgeon

As well as being an historical source of economic vitality and transportation, rivers and waterways in our community impact cultural identity  and social justice. September 26 is World Rivers Day, an opportunity to reflect on our region’s environmental “blue spaces”, particularly the Genesee River.

The Seneca Park Zoo has been working for decades with conservation partners, including the US Geological Survey, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, to restore and maintain the health of the Genesee River. The Zoo’s impact is particularly evident in their work to bring back the lake sturgeon.

By the late 1980s, the once-abundant lake sturgeon had become regionally extinct in the Genesee River due to pollution, habitat loss and overfishing. Concentrated efforts to clean the river began, and in 2003, juvenile lake sturgeon began to be released into the river. Since then, annual data collection on the population estimates suggests the fish are thriving. This year, for the first time in more than 50 years, a large (61 inches, 70 pounds) spawning female was found in the Genesee River.

An important component of the Zoo’s success in this project has been their Urban Ecologists program. These Ecologists, juniors and seniors from the City School district, are hired by the Zoo to raise awareness about the importance of the reintroduction program, and play an active role in returning this once locally extinct fish to our waters.

Find more information about the Zoo’s work on lake sturgeon restoration here and their Urban Ecologists program here. Visit the RocHealthData map room to see details of our regional waterways and rivers, overlaid with data about mental health.

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