Endangered Fishes Hatchery
Cobleskill's endangered fishes hatchery provides a unique opportunity for environmentally conscious undergraduate students to make a significant contribution to restore endangered and threatened fish in the Northeast. Students work closely with Cobleskill's Brent Lehman and Dr. Foster and NYSDEC endangered species biologists Doug Carlson and Lisa Holst. SUNY Cobleskill's Endangered Fishes hatchery is supported through State Wildlife Grants Program which is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for projects to help conserve and recover imperiled wildlife.
Dr. John Foster (left) Chair of SUNY Cobleskill’s Fisheries & Wildlife Department and Brent Lehman, hatchery manager, prepare to spawn a male lake sturgeon on the St. Lawrence River.
Dr. John Foster and Brent Lehman work closely with colleagues from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Geological Survey and the New York Power Authority to restore of lake sturgeon populations in New York waters. Eggs spawned on the St. Lawrence River are transported to SUNY Cobleskill's endangered fishes hatchery where Fisheries & Aquaculture students will hatch them and rear them through the summer. In the fall, when the fingerlings have grown to just over 6 inches in length, they will be used to restore lake sturgeon populations in Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, the St. Lawrence River, Niagara River, Oneida and Cayuga Lakes, Lake Champlain, Oswegatchie River, Grasse River and Black Lake.
Dr. Foster states that the goal of the Lake Sturgeon project is to use hatchery propagation and restocking to restore North America's largest freshwater fish to its former range in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence watershed. Lake sturgeon is a threatened and depleted species in New York State. In fact, this species is listed by the American Fisheries Society as threatened throughout its native range.
A century ago in New York, lake sturgeon supported a substantial commercial fishery and was prized for their meat and caviar. Reasons for the decline of this species have been attributed to: overexploitation due to high demand for caviar and smoked flesh; construction of dams that cut off spawning and nursery areas; and pollution and degradation of habitat.
Fisheries & Aquaculture student, Joe Dallas adjusts flow to jar incubators holding lake sturgeon eggs at SUNY Cobleskill Endangered Fishes Hatchery.
Besides their potential economic importance, Dr. Foster suggests there are other equally important reasons that lake sturgeon deserve our help. “Sturgeons are living fossils, being one of the most ancient freshwater fishes on earth. Over the past 200 million years sturgeons have changed little and fossil sturgeons look just like those living today!” The lake sturgeon is particularly unique, being New York State's largest freshwater fish species. It is also our longest-lived and slowest maturing freshwater fish. Lake sturgeon can reach nearly 11 feet in length and over 300 pounds in weight. Females often do not reach maturity until 14 to 23 years of age and can live as long as 150 years.
Fisheries & Aquaculture student, Jose Rivera, observes newly hatched paddlefish fry and eggs incubating in hatching jars at the SUNY Cobleskill Endangered Fishes Hatchery. Left Jose holds a paddlefish ready for stocking.
Fisheries & Aquaculture student, Ryan Lewis observes gilt darters at SUNY Cobleskill Endangered Fishes Hatchery.
Another species being reared by the Fisheries & Aquaculture program is the gilt darter (Percina evides). The goal of the Gilt Darter Project is to use hatchery propagation and restocking to restore this species to New York's Allegheny Watershed where it has been extinct for over seventy years. The gilt darter project is based on the premise that hatchery techniques can be applied to a small, non-game fish to restore them to their previous habitats. This five-year project will be a challenge, since gilt darters have never been reared in captivity before. SUNY Cobleskill is working closely with Conservation Fisheries Inc. of Nashville TN, which has been instrumental in restoring darters and other endangered fishes in the southern Appalachians.
Cobleskill's endangered fishes hatchery provides a unique opportunity for environmentally conscious undergraduate students to make a significant contribution to restore endangered and threatened fish in the Northeast.Support for these programs is being provided through a State Wildlife Grants to Dr. Foster, who works closely with NYSDEC endangered species biologists Doug Carlson and Lisa Holst. The State Wildlife Grant Program is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and is awarded to projects to help conserve and recover imperiled wildlife.
Besides the endangered fishes hatchery, SUNY-Cobleskill has the most diverse university aquaculture facilities in the northeast, including a 40,000 gallon trout-salmon hatchery, warm-water hatcheries for tilapia, prawns and freshwater lobster, ornamental tropical fish hatchery, earthen ponds for rearing walleye, bass and bait fish, aquaponics greenhouse, and high tunnel ponds for seasonal culture.