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On Location Back to Blog »
The Blue World team heads to the St. Lawrence River!
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Monday, June 04, 2012.
Editor Tim, Todd and I have just returned from a 3 day shoot in upstate New York, where we were filming Lake Sturgeon in the St. Lawrence river. We were invited up by my friends Jen Hayes and David Doubilet. Jen did her PhD work with Sturgeon, and she is really excited about them and an encyclopedia of knowledge. Jen also hooked us up with Rodger Klindt from the NY state Department of Environmental Conservation. He is a biologist heading up the efforts to save this endangered and dwindling stock of fish.
The sturgeon is an ancient fish going back 200 milion years. It looks primitive, and has features unlike many other fish. Although it is a "bony" fish, it has a cartilaginous skeleton like a shark. It has no scales like other fish, but instead has sharp "scutes" on its back. The sturgeon is probably most famous as the primary source of caviar, which has caused a great decline in their numbers around the world. In the St. Lawrence, hydro power and dams have limited their migrations, which has caused a great reduction in their population. Rodger is heading up a program to collect the eggs from live sturgeon and raise them in hatcheries to be released. We got to see, film and participate in this year's egg collection and then release the donor fish back into the river.
We also got to dive the "sturgeon beds" that were created by the power company to encourage the sturgeon to spawn. Sturgeon need specific types of places to spawn and lay their eggs. Primarily this is in fast water like rapids where the rocks are clear of algae and zebra mussels. Since rapids occur in places with the most elevation change in a river, this is also a prime place to put up a dam for power. Renewable power is great for the air, but not necessarily for the animals that live in the river. By creating special areas on the river bottom that are favorable for spawning, the power companies hope to prove that they can replicate conditions necessary for the survival of sturgeon.
The location of the beds is secret to keep fishermen from going after them, and we had a stroke of luck. On diving the beds, we witnessed and filmed sturgeon spawning. Jen told us that nobody had ever seen that happening--and we got it in HD! So stand by for an awesome segment! Shooting this behavior was one of the most challenging undertakings we have ever had at Blue World. The current in the river is strong and unrelenting, making shooting extremely difficult.
Thanks so much to Jen and David, Rodger Klindt and Ben Lenz (from the NY Power Authority) for the help in pulling this off. It's a great story about a fascinating fish.