A very rare 70-pound fish was found in a New York river for the first time in over 50 years. Officials say this discovery is a "milestone."

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On Thursday, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced what he called a "milestone" in the restoration of the Genesee River following the collection of a spawning female lake sturgeon in the lower Genesee River for the first time in over 50 years.

Dr. Dawn Dittman and the field crew from the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) Tunison Laboratory of Aquatic Science recently netted the 61-inch, nearly 70-pound female lake sturgeon along the banks of the Genesee River in Monroe County.

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"I am thrilled to report this milestone in the long-term restoration of Lake Sturgeon to the Genesee River," Dittman said. "The finding validates scientists' expectation that the first spawning would occur when stocked female sturgeons reached 17 or 18 years old."

The DEC began stocking lake sturgeon into the Lower Genesee River in 2003, as part of the State's efforts to support the species' recovery.

The discovery of the spawning lake sturgeon in the lower section of the Genesee River is significant as the area is part of the Rochester Embayment Area of Concern (AOC), officials say. The AOC designation was given to 43 areas around the Great Lakes Basin under the U.S.- Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, signifying the chemical, physical, or biological components of the area's ecosystem was degraded as a result of local human activities.

"Working with our partners, DEC's investments and efforts to stock and clean up the Genesee watershed have paid off for lake sturgeon in the Genesee River," Seggos said. "This sturgeon thrived in the Genesee as a stocked juvenile and has finally reached maturity to hopefully produce another generation."

The return of spawning lake sturgeon provides further evidence that restoration efforts are leading to tangible improvements to the ecosystem and support fisheries restoration and management goals, according to the DEC.

DEC stocks juvenile lake sturgeon into the Genesee River as part of a statewide recovery effort for the species, currently listed as "threatened" in New York State. Part of the recovery criteria for the species is to increase the number of spawning populations across its range in New York.

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