An exhibit celebrating Michigan’s ancient, iconic lake sturgeon opened at Detroit’s Belle Isle Aquarium on May 25.

On loan from Michigan Sea Grant, the exhibit was previously on display at the Michigan Science Center and features an intricate, life-sized model of an adult female lake sturgeon. This 6-foot-long model gives visitors a close-up look at the features that make the lake sturgeon such a unique inhabitant of the Great Lakes. Visitors can also meet Belle Isle Aquarium’s living population of young lake sturgeon, who are at least 15 years away from maturity.

The exhibit’s engaging interpretive materials tell the story of the lake sturgeon and its connections to local ecosystems and economies. “We want to show this iconic species to the people who would not necessarily see sturgeon in their lifetime or don’t even know it exists in the waters surrounding Detroit,” says Amy Emmert, Belle Isle Aquarium’s director of education.

Sturgeon model on the move!

Sturgeon model on the move! Photo: Mary Bohling

These ancient fish once thrived in the St. Clair and Detroit rivers, serving as an important food source for Native American tribes. Due to overfishing and habitat loss, lake sturgeon populations today are estimated to be at one percent of their historical levels. In recent years, many local partners have worked to raise awareness and restore habitat for lake sturgeon in the Detroit and St. Clair rivers.

“The display allows us to demonstrate how conservation can be accomplished through partnerships, education, and local efforts,” says Emmert. “The exhibit highlights restoration efforts, such as new rocky reefs created to provide egg-laying habitats for lake sturgeon off Belle Isle and throughout the Detroit River.”

The Belle Isle Aquarium is open to visitors Friday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. Parking and admission are free.

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