Sturgeon are an iconic species of the Great Lakes -- with their long noses and whiskers, and bony plates down their backs, they can grow up to 7 feet long and their ancestors date back hundreds of millions of years.
But these days, they’re threatened.
"Lake sturgeon are kind of the aquatic version of the buffalo," said Jeff Miller, a senior conservation expert with the Center for Biological Diversity, a national nonprofit that works to save species that are threatened.
"This is a species that was incredibly abundant and then were overfished for many years, then impacts of dams and pollution," Miller said. "Now they still persist, but they’re about 1% of their historic numbers."
That’s why the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the federal government to consider listing them under the Endangered Species Act.
And it worked.
Georgia Parham is a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"We’re starting a pretty thorough process to look at the status of the lake sturgeon, threats, biology, its historic range, current conditions, that kind of thing." Parham said.
Parham said it’s early in the process, and there’s no guarantee they’ll be listed as endangered or threatened, but the Fish and Wildlife Service has looked at the species before.
"It’s an important species for tribes, for many states, it’s an important species for sport fishermen, so it’s a species we’ve been following and working on conservation for quite a long time," Parham said.
The designation as an endangered species would allocate more federal resources to conservation efforts in order to prevent the extinction of this ancient fish.