Updated: May 9
The United Kingdom is home to a variety of unique and fascinating freshwater species, including the freshwater sturgeon. This species is one of the most ancient and evolutionarily distinct fish species in the world, and is considered to be a rare and globally endangered species. In fact they are the most endangered species group on the planet.
Those that have experienced diving at Capernwray will be only to familiar with these prehistoric looking fish lurking about in the shallows, spending their entire time hovering up the floor of the quarry on the hunt for a tasty snack. Whilst we look on with fascination as they go blissfully about their bottom dwelling life, how much do we actually know about this amazing fish?
Did you know that the average lifespan is 50-60 years, with some exceeding the grand old age of 100? Are you aware that they can grow in excess of 6 metres & weigh more than 400kgs? The largest rod and line caught sturgeon in British waters weighed in at an impressive 188kgs in 1903 on the river Severn.
Do you know that under the law of the United Kingdom, sturgeon are classified as royal fish, and when taken, become the personal property of the monarch of the United Kingdom as part of his or her royal prerogative? The designation of their royal status was declared under statute way back in 1324 by King Edward II and still remains to this day.
Freshwater sturgeon are typically found in large rivers and lakes, where they feed on small invertebrates, crustaceans, and molluscs. They are also known to consume plant material, making them one of the most diverse feeders in the freshwater ecosystem. One of the key features of the sturgeon is its bony, armoured body, which provides protection from predators and their habitat. In addition, they have a long, flat snout that is used for foraging, and a large mouth filled with rows of teeth.
Despite their impressive adaptations, sturgeon are facing significant challenges. Overfishing, habitat destruction, and water pollution have all contributed to a decline in their populations. In addition, the construction of dams and other man-made structures have disrupted the migratory patterns of these fish, making it difficult for them to find suitable habitats for spawning and rearing their young.
In an effort to conserve this species, the UK government has implemented a number of measures to protect the sturgeon and its habitat. For example, fishing restrictions have been put in place to reduce the pressure on sturgeon populations, and new laws have been introduced to regulate water pollution and protect wetlands and rivers. In addition, conservation organizations and research institutions are working together to better understand the biology and ecology of sturgeon, and to develop new strategies for their protection. For example, the UK’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science is actively engaged in sturgeon research, and is working to develop a breeding program to help re-establish populations in the UK.
Despite the challenges facing the sturgeon in the UK, there is reason to be optimistic about their future. With increased attention and support from government agencies, conservation organizations, and the public, this species has the potential to recover and thrive once again in the UK’s freshwater ecosystem.
The sturgeon is a remarkable species that deserves our attention and protection. By working together, we can ensure that this ancient and fascinating species continues to thrive for generations to come.
The next time you're enjoying the company of these extraordinary creatures, take a moment to think about the devastating impact our actions have made to their potential extinction & what we can do as individuals to give them a fighting chance.