Fishkill Ridge
Community Heritage

Sturgeon To Be Released Into The Hudson River


 Restoring Life in the Hudson

Governor Pataki with sturgeon to be released into the Hudson RiverNew York Gov. George Pataki carries a sturgeon to be released into the Hudson River at Haverstraw Bay Park Sept. 29, 2004. About 50 of the fish are to be released.
( Peter Carr / The Journal News )


(Original publication: September 30, 2004)

WEST HAVERSTRAW — Don Gabel held the net tightly as he walked to the Hudson River to release the Atlantic sturgeon that wiggled inside.

He sank the net into the water, and the fish swam off, one of 89 released yesterday as part of a state study and restoration program.

Gabel, a member of Boy Scout Troop 36 of Pearl River, said he hoped the program would be successful. He had a good reason: The 17-year-old Blauvelt teenager also is an avid fisherman.

"I'd like to catch one," Gabel said, his sneakers and jeans wet from his partial entry into the river. "I think the program's a good idea because it's going to put the river back to how it was."

Gabel was one of about two dozen Cub and Boy Scouts from Pack 36 and Troop 36, respectively, who helped carry the fish from a truck into the river at Haverstraw Bay, the county's only riverfront park.

But it was Gov. George Pataki who got the first opportunity to free one of the long, thin sturgeon into the river. In brown hip waders and a yellow slicker, the governor cradled a fish and stepped into the water to gently release it.

Earlier, Pataki explained why the sturgeon, which thrived in the Hudson until overfishing and pollution severely reduced its numbers in the 1980s, had been chosen for the program.

"What we want to do is restore those fish, restore those majestic symbols of the wildness of the Hudson River itself," Pataki said.

The release and study program is a project of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, whose commissioner, Erin Crotty, joined Pataki yesterday.

The program researches the habitat use, movement, homing instincts and health of both wild and hatchery-raised Atlantic sturgeon in the Hudson. Yesterday's release was the last of three made this year, which have put a total of 350 sturgeon in the river.

The fish released yesterday are the offspring of Hudson River sturgeon, but they were born in a U.S. Fish and Wildlife hatchery on the Susquehanna River in Lamar, Pa. They were between the ages of 6 and 10 years old and were taken to Haverstraw by truck from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Pataki said it took 20 years for female sturgeon to reproduce, so it will be at least 10 years before offspring arrive. He also said it would take about 40 years before the success of this year's release would be known, and he might not be around to see the result.

But nodding toward the children in attendance, Pataki said the hope was they one day would benefit from the effort by being able to enjoy a cleaner, more accessible river that once again teemed with fish.

Yesterday's release was made just up the river from two power plants at Bowline Point. The plants use water from the river in their cooling process, then release water that is warmer than what naturally flows in the Hudson.

Frances Dunwell, director of the DEC's Estuary Program, said cooling systems were a concern, but the state was taking steps to decrease the fish kills that routinely occur by requiring power plants to use better technology in their systems.

Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, remain a problem. General Electric legally dumped PCBs into the river at upstate Fort Edward and Hudson Falls from 1940 to 1977. The Environmental Protection Agency considers PCBs as probable human carcinogens, or substances that cause cancer.

Dunwell said that while PCBs remained an issue for humans who consume fish from the river, they do not appear to be a significant problem for the survival of the fish themselves.

About 10 percent of the sturgeon have been tagged so they can be monitored, Dunwell said. Some of the fish previously released along upstate portions of the river already have been tracked to Haverstraw Bay, she said.

Information from the project could be used to protect critical habitats or determine which river system the sturgeon will return to for spawning. No one is sure if the hatchery-raised sturgeon will head up the Hudson or return to the Susquehanna to spawn.

Cub Scout Michael McCoy, 8, and his sister, Colleen, 6, were just glad to help get the fish from the tanks on the truck into the much larger river yesterday.

"They'll have more room to swim," said Michael, as Colleen nodded.

Davis Natzle, who lives in New Paltz and is Dunwell's son, said the sturgeon were a special part of the river.

"I don't think it would be good if they became completely extinct," said Davis, 9. "Then we wouldn't have one of the original fish in the river."

Reach Laura Incalcaterra at or 845-578-2486

sturgeon to be released into the Hudson RiverJocelyn Whitworth and Linda Richards of the Sloop Clearwater carry a sturgeon to be released into the Hudson River at Haverstraw Bay Park Sept. 29, 2004. Gov. George Pataki was on hand as the fish were released.
( Peter Carr / The Journal News )

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