Volunteers Watch Over Black River to Protect Local Sturgeon

For 20 years, Sturgeon for Tomorrow has been working to bring back Michigan’s sturgeon population. 

Over the last 100 years, Michigan saw the 136-million-year-old species was in trouble.

“Hydropower dams, loss of habitat, commercial fishing and poaching have declined the numbers as such that we had to kind of stand up and say ‘look to reverse this trend we need to get in the trenches and try to protect them so that they don’t become extinct’,” said Brenda Archambo, Sturgeon General of Sturgeon for Tomorrow. 

Every spring, the organization recruits volunteers to patrol Black River in Onaway for poachers as adult sturgeon make their way back to their birthplace to spawn.

“We’re Sturgeon for Tomorrow. We are the organization that coordinates all of the volunteers but it is those people in the trenches that are making it happen,” said Archambo. 

Due to COVID protocols, less volunteers were recruited this year. But groups are still doing their part, with some staying out for weeks at a time.

Volunteer Karen Abrahamson said everyone who participates benefits.

“It makes a difference,” said Abrahamson. “Not only for the poachers who are aware of their presence here, but it also makes a difference for the families who participate. It gives them an opportunity to be out here and a lot of them might not be otherwise. Just being out here raises your awareness.” 

Volunteers will continue to patrol the river as long as the sturgeon are at their most vulnerable as they head upstream.