TOLEDO, Ohio — Thousands of lake sturgeons are now swimming in the Maumee River.
It's all a part of the Toledo Zoo's plan to keep the fish alive and populated in northwest Ohio.
The annual Sturgeon Fest took place at the city of Toledo boat launch in south Toledo on Saturday.
The event makes releasing the endangered fish an interactive family activity but it's much more than that.
It's also one of the many conservation efforts the zoo considers a part of its mission.
“We have turtles projects, snakes and the one we are seeing today - a reintroduction of the lake sturgeon where we are putting sturgeon back into the Maumee and trying to repopulate the Maumee River and Lake Erie with this pretty awesome fish,” said Matt Cross the Conservation Coordinator of the Toledo Zoo.
Cross said the prehistoric lake sturgeon is currently on the endangered species list.
The bottom-feeding fish, which were highly prized in the 19th century for their meat and eggs and were subsequently overfished, can grow to be 6 to 8 feet long.
The sturgeon festival also highlights the significant role the fish have in the Maumee River's ecosystem.
“We have a lot of talk around here about the runoff and the bad nutrients with the algae blooms. So, this is a great food source for a lot of our species like walleye. The sturgeon fish are now a great ambassador to talk about all the issues facing the waterways in our area of the state,” said Cross.
Over 200 people celebrated the release of the fish with live music - family actives and games.
All of the sturgeon that were released were tagged.
Cross says the zoo will track how big they are and far they've traveled.
MORE FROM WTOL 11: