DNR News

Imperiled fish rescued from Santee Cooper Lakes June 6, 2017

by Ellen Waldrop, SCDNR Freshwater Fisheries Biologist

A South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) fisheries biologist team rescued a five-foot Atlantic sturgeon during a rescue mission in Lake Moultrie on May 31, 2017.

SCDNR Freshwater Fisheries Biologist Mark D'Ercole aids in the recovery of the sturgeon from Lake Moultrie.

SCDNR Freshwater Fisheries Biologist Mark D'Ercole aids in the recovery of the sturgeon from Lake Moultrie. ESA permit #20528

The Atlantic sturgeon is a prehistoric fish that inhabits most of South Carolina’s major river systems. Historically, it was harvested for its meat and roe (caviar), resulting in a major overall decline in many Southeastern rivers and eventually leading to it being listed as an endangered species in 2012. SCDNR biologists are currently studying the ancient fishes’ behavior in South Carolina by tagging the fish with acoustic transmitters and tracking their movement.

Last September, a tagged Atlantic sturgeon swam up the Cooper River and entered Lake Moultrie through the Pinopolis Dam Navigation Lock. Just like manatees that occasionally enter the lake system, this fish could not find a way out. With the increasing water temperatures and potential lack of food, biologists decided intervention was necessary. A team of about 20 fisheries biologists participated in an effort to capture the sturgeon in hopes of returning it back downriver. Through a complex coordinated effort, the fish was located, captured, and safely returned to the river. Biologists will continue to monitor the fish’s movements and expect to see it return to the Atlantic Ocean soon.


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