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The inspiration behind Riverkeeper’s official beer: ‘Lucky Sturgeon IPA’

You gotta love the name “Lucky Sturgeon IPA.”

It’s the name chosen via social media to designate Riverkeeper’s first official beer, to be sold at the Hudson Hop & Harvest Festival in Peekskill Oct. 4, with proceeds benefiting our work.

Made by Peekskill Brewery and Captain Lawrence Brewing Co, the beer is hoppy, spirited – and mighty strong. We think the name and the beer send up a little message of hope for one of the iconic Hudson River species that Riverkeeper is fighting to protect.

With your help, and maybe some luck, perhaps we’ll see the ancient species begin to recover from a devastating drop in number.

babysturgeon“Their numbers have been reduced to fumes,” Riverkeeper Boat Captain John Lipscomb says. “Where they used to exist in the tens of thousands in the Hudson – Atlantic sturgeon – the spawning age adults are thought to be in the hundreds, not the thousands.”

Atlantic sturgeon, which can grow to 800 pounds and 14 feet, are listed federally as an endangered species. In 1996, the harvest of sturgeon was closed on the Hudson River. Sturgeon spawn at 18 years, so the surviving offspring of that first generation spared from commercial fishing have reached spawning age themselves.

Decimated in number by overfishing, the bottom-feeding fish are profoundly affected by pollution, dredging and other threats to the river. The Hudson’s Atlantic sturgeon are born in the river, live in the Atlantic and return to spawn. A smaller species, shortnose sturgeon, spend their whole lives in the Hudson.

Riverkeeper is working hard to protect sturgeon from threats including the massive Tappan Zee Bridge construction project, both at the site for the new bridge and at a proposed upriver staging area in Coeymans. We pressed for a strict construction permit for the bridge and threatened to sue in September 2013 over poor dredging practices and inadequate monitoring of endangered species.

We are currently pressing for a full environmental review of the Coeymans staging area, where dredging and pile-driving threaten sturgeon and their habitat. Riverkeeper alerted the DEC to illegal construction at the site, and the work was halted as the DEC moved to investigate.

Meanwhile vital efforts are being made to study and monitor sturgeon in the Hudson. Riverkeeper’s patrol boat has assisted the state DEC in surveying the river bottom to document benthic (bottom) habitat and also deploy acoustic sensors to help gather data on where the fish live and spawn.

The efforts made for these creatures hopefully have a larger effect on other species suffering decline. Their endangered status makes them a kind of surrogate for other fish that suffer the same threats to their environment.

“By protecting sturgeon and their habitat, other species get some assistance as well,” Lipscomb says.

The tiny sturgeon in the photo above was pulled from the Hudson near Poughkeepsie seven years ago during a professional development program for educators called “River Summer” aboard the R/V Seawolf, says Dave Conover, education director at Clearwater, who took the photo. The sturgeon is being held by John Mylod, former executive director at Clearwater and current commercial fisherman, Hudson River historian and advocate.

Shortly after the photo was taken, the fish was returned to the Hudson.

Let’s hope it’s a Lucky Sturgeon.

Thanks and congratulations to Rupert of Red Hook, who proposed the name Lucky Sturgeon in our online naming contest. He told WAMC:
“Honestly, I think a sturgeon’s a fish that would be a beer drinker.
You look at that fish… That thing is gnarly looking. I think a sturgeon would definitely be an IPA drinker, maybe even a stout.”

The name won out in a social media vote over four other proposals: Clean River, Estuary, Save the Hudson and Watchdog. Join us for a tasting Oct. 1 at Captain Lawrence in Elmsford and Oct. 4 at Hudson Hop & Harvest Festival to try a Lucky Sturgeon yourself.
(Volunteers are needed at the festival to greet visitors, educate attendees about how to use the compost bins and represent Riverkeeper at our outreach table. Sign up for a 3.5 hour shift – and receive a free growler of beer as a token of our appreciation.)

“Riverkeeper believes in taking a strong stand,” Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said. “We should have a strong beer.”

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