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This year’s release saw about 75 lake sturgeon ranging in size primarily from 18-30 inches released from the Shelby Park boat ramp. These fish were grown to a much larger size by TWRA personnel at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Gallatin Steam Plant to improve their survival chances.
The event was well attended and began at the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center with remarks by TWRA Executive Director Ed Carter, TWRA Aquatic Biologist David Sims, Nashville Metro Mayor Karl Dean, Cumberland River Compact Executive Director Doug Hausken, Corps of Engineer District Engineer Lt. Col. Bernard Lindstrom, Gallatin Steam Plant Manager Kenneth Mullinax, Shelby Bottoms Nature Center Director Denise Weyer, East Academy teacher Brandi Fisher and East Literature Magnet School teacher Mark Smith. Margo Farnsworth, senior fellow of the CRP, served as emcee.
Following the completion of the speakers’ remarks, the event moved to the boat ramp. Students from East Academy and East Literature were present and the students helped stock the fish from nets into the river. Students from East Literature made a large replica of a lake sturgeon that they brought to the Nature Center.
The second major release into the Cumberland follows the inaugural release of almost 1,100 lake sturgeon that were reintroduced to the river in 2006 as part of a plan to duplicate the successful reintroduction of lake sturgeon into the upper Tennessee River near Knoxville.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and TVA have been working with TWRA to restore the Gallatin Steam Plant Hatchery so it can be used to hold and grow lake sturgeon and freshwater mussels as part of several species restoration efforts.
The combination of poor water quality, habitat loss, and unregulated commercial fisheries led to the loss of sturgeon from Tennessee waters in the 1960s.
Now, however, things are looking up for this prehistoric fish. Changes in the operation of Corps dams on the Cumberland River and TVA dams on the Tennessee River have led to better water quality in these rivers that can support more diverse communities of fish, including lake sturgeon. Also, improvements in the management of non-point source pollution have greatly enhanced the survival rate.
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