Standing guard to protect Michigan’s lake sturgeon

(Michigan DNR)

The Black Lake Chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow (Cheboygan County) is seeking volunteers to join in its effort, in partnership with the Michigan DNR, to help protect lake sturgeon from illegal harvest during the annual spawning run.

Every spring, mature lake sturgeon – a fish species that is threatened in Michigan and rare throughout the United States – become vulnerable to poaching as they briefly leave Black Lake for spawning sites upstream in the Black River.

Hundreds of volunteers are needed to stand guard along the Black River during the spawning season (mid-April through early June) to report suspicious activity and deter the unlawful take of this iconic fish.

“The annual Sturgeon Guarding Program has proven that people serving as sturgeon guards watching over the river have virtually eliminated poaching, while helping to ensure the protection and reproductive success of the species,” said May Paulson, the program’s new volunteer coordinator.

When spawning begins, sturgeon guards are assigned in shifts to sites along the river. The volunteers stand watch and, if suspicious activity occurs, use cellular phones provided by Sturgeon for Tomorrow to contact DNR conservation officers who are actively patrolling the area in support of the guarding effort. Aerial surveillance also is deployed to help secure the area.

Many opportunities over the approximately six-week spawning season are available for those who want to help. Sturgeon ambassadors will be on-site at the river to assist and answer questions. In addition to guarding the sturgeon, volunteers also can play a key role by recording the number and activity of fish they see. This has become a popular activity for families, Scouting and church groups, as well as students interested in natural resources management. Artists, especially photographers, often participate, too.

Individuals or groups interested in volunteering should contact Mary Paulson at 989-763-7568. Volunteers also can register by clicking here.

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