at Beczak Environmental Education Center, on the Hudson in Yonkers, NY

Hudson River Sturgeon with Tom Lake on Saturday, November 12

One of the Hudson River’s most knowledgeable naturalists presents the life history of the Atlantic sturgeon—the Hudson’s largest fish whose ancestors once shared the Earth with dinosaurs!

Hudson River naturalist, writer and teacher Tom Lake presents the life history of the Atlantic sturgeon—the Hudson’s oldest and largest fish species that can reach fifteen feet and over eight hundred pounds—once so plentiful they clogged the Hudson, now threatened with extinction. This Rivertalks presentation is Saturday, November 12, 7:00 PM, $10 / $5 for teachers, students and seniors. For information contact, (914) 377-1900 x 12. Beczak Environmental Education Center, 35 Alexander Street, Yonkers, NY 10701.

Imagine going fishing on the Hudson River and hooking a ten-foot, 300-pound monster armored with bony plates. Or imagine not being able to take your boat out on the Hudson because the channel is so full of huge spawning sturgeon that navigation is dangerous.

Scenes like these were commonplace Hudson River occurrences. Now, due to overfishing and pollution, the Atlantic sturgeon—the oldest and largest of all Hudson River fishes—is an endangered species. Find out if experts think sturgeon come back from the brink of extinction at Hudson River Sturgeon: Relic from Deep Time.

Tom Lake, Naturalist for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and editor of the Hudson River Almanac, attributes his fascination with sturgeon to their role as “canary in the coal mine” for the Earth’s health. “Sturgeon have been on Earth for 200 million years, surviving global turmoil and cataclysmic events. They are a perfect example of how heavy the human footprint weighs on our planet.” 

In Hudson River Sturgeon: Relic from Deep Time, Tom Lake will explore the two sturgeon species found in the Hudson River—Atlantic and shortnose—from the Triassic Period when they shared the Earth with the first birds and dinosaurs to present time. His presentation will include photos of sturgeon recently tagged in the Hudson River, as well as information about sturgeon’s life history, spawning cycle, and uses in colonial times.

Beczak Environmental Education Center, where Tom Lake will present Hudson River Sturgeon: Relic from Deep Time, holds several hundred fishing programs each year, but has never caught a live sturgeon. “Two years ago, a dead three foot long Atlantic sturgeon washed onto our beach,” says Vicky Garufi, Director of Education and Outreach. “It was mangled, like it had been caught in a boat’s propeller. We keep its scutes—bony plates—in our Center, and of course we answer many questions about our seven foot sturgeon model on display.”

The Hudson River Estuary logo depicts an Atlantic sturgeon, an apt symbol of the Department of Conservation’s efforts to protect the Hudson River Estuary.

Since 1998, possession of Atlantic sturgeon has been banned by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) in all US Atlantic coastal states.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in collaboration with Hudson River Estuary Program, Pew Institute, Hudson River Foundation, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation operates sturgeon studies in the Hudson River to learn about and protect Atlantic sturgeon’s spawning waters.
Tom Lake is the Estuary Naturalist for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Hudson River Estuary Program. Besides teaching the ecology of the estuary, he edits the Hudson River Almanac, a natural history journal now in its 17th year. He also teaches anthropology, archaeology, and the Prehistory of the Hudson Valley at SUNY Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie.

Lake’s last presentation at Beczak, “The Return of the Bald Eagle,” was a highlight of the spring 2011 RiverTalks season.

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