Lake sturgeon in Ontario
Lake sturgeon is Ontario's only member of the sturgeon family and the province's largest freshwater fish species. Some sturgeon can weigh over 150 kilograms and live over 100 years.
Ontario lake sturgeon populations have been greatly reduced and even disappeared completely from many locations over the last century. As of June 30, 2008, they will be listed as a Species of Special Concern in Ontario. There are now only about 100 water systems in Ontario that support viable lake sturgeon populations.
Recently, the harvest and illegal sale of sturgeon in certain parts of Ontario has increased considerably.
The Ministry of Natural Resources is putting in place an immediate zero catch and possession limit on recreational fisheries for sturgeon and is moving to a zero harvest limit on commercial fisheries in 2009 to protect the provincial population from overharvest.
The Ministry of Natural Resources is also closing the sturgeon fishery on the Mississagi River to protect the population from overharvest.
Traditional use of lake sturgeon by Aboriginal people for subsistence and cultural purposes will not be affected. Where Aboriginal individuals and communities are harvesting commercially, the ministry will work with them to ensure that lake sturgeon populations can be managed sustainably.
Unless steps are taken to protect lake sturgeon, harvest levels are projected to increase considerably across the province. In part, this is due to the collapse of the Caspian Sea sturgeon fishery and ongoing demand for sturgeon caviar fed by illegal sale.
To guide management over the longer term, the ministry is also launching a project to develop a provincial sturgeon management strategy. This strategy will address all major issues affecting the sustainability of Ontario's sturgeon populations. Stakeholders and First Nations will be consulted during the development of the strategy.