New York Sea Grant (NYSG) is among the most recent recipients of support from the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) for its work to support lake sturgeon recovery efforts in New York and lead outreach and education programs to inspire appreciation for this prehistoric freshwater fish and state threatened species.
The fund has been supporting local efforts around the world aimed at saving wildlife, inspiring action, and protecting the planet with more than $75 million distributed to nonprofit organizations since 1995.
Lake sturgeon was once abundant in New York, but populations began to decline in the mid-1800s, largely as a result of overharvest, dam construction and habitat degradation. The fishery was closed in 1976 and lake sturgeon were designated a New York state threatened species in 1983.
Additionally, lake sturgeon are listed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) as a species of greatest conservation need and considered a priority species for recovery in New York. Today, it is illegal to possess lake sturgeon or target them while fishing in New York.
The fish is also considered a species of cultural significance to the Mohawks of Akwesasne and other Haudenosaunee Nations surrounding the Lake Ontario, Niagara River and St. Lawrence River watersheds. Indigenous peoples in these regions have a long history of subsistence fishing of lake sturgeon. Tribal nations are a key partner in conservation and education outreach efforts for this species.
Over the next two years, Disney support of the “Inspiring Lake Sturgeon Conservation” project will help NYSG and its partners address portions of more than half of the three-dozen statewide recovery actions identified in the New York State Lake Sturgeon Recovery Plan.
Partners, including NYSDEC, USFWS-New York, New York Sturgeon for Tomorrow, USGS and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe (SRMT) environment division, will offer expertise in research, outreach, education and extension.
“Support from the Disney Conservation Fund will help increase awareness about lake sturgeon and the challenges they face as a threatened species in New York. Lake sturgeon populations are showing signs of recovery, and we want to encourage that recovery,” said project leader Dr. Jesse M. Lepak, Ph.D., New York Sea Grant’s Great Lakes Fisheries and Ecosystem Health Extension specialist, Ithaca.
Recent DCF-funded projects were selected based on their efforts to implement comprehensive community wildlife conservation programs, stabilize and increase populations of at-risk animals, and engage communities in conservation in critical ecosystems around the world.
For information on Disney’s commitment to conserve nature and a complete list of grant recipients, visit www.disney.com/conservation.