People of the Sturgeon

Bookshelf: People of the Sturgeon

People of the Sturgeon – Kathleen Schmitt Kline et al

People of the Sturgeon
People of the Sturgeon

Sturgeon are perhaps best known for their eggs, which are expensively consumed as caviar. There are sturgeon populations in various locations in the northern hemisphere – perhaps the Russian sturgeon are the best known. A population is also found in Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, which is the focus of this book.

Sturgeon fishing is a popular pastime in the area, where the fish are speared through holes in the ice during the winter months. People of the Sturgeon is a cultural history of the fish, describing its biology (the fish grow to great sizes and can live for over 100 years) but also placing it in the proper historical and cultural context. The Menominee Indians inhabiting the area attach great significance to the fish, consuming them on feast days and passing on fishing techniques from generation to generation.

A conservation organisation called Sturgeon for Tomorrow works specifically for the preservation of lake sturgeon in Wisconsin. It was formed by local spear fishermen who realised that they needed to act in order to ensure that there would still be a population of sturgeon to spear in future years. Spear fishing for sturgeon is well regulated, with strict opening hours, prohibition of the use of lights to attract fish, and fishing methods right down to the dimensions of the holes that may be cut in the lake’s ice. Residents do “sturgeon patrol” in order to prevent poaching of the fish out of season and in locations other than the designated fishing areas. Each sturgeon that is caught during the season is logged, which provides high quality data for management of the fishery.

Sturgeon for Tomorrow is a detailed look at a very small geographic area and the profound significance that its people attach to a remarkable fish. It is a reminder that conservation may not exist successfully without a cultural context, and how successful a conservation effort can be when it originates from and involves the community that uses the resource.

You can get a copy of the book here or here. The audiobook contains additional rich content including music and interviews with fishermen, craftsmen and others involved with sturgeon conservation. Here’s a documentary based on the book:


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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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