Environmental groups in Illinois and Indiana have filed a federal complaint in hopes of forcing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete a review that could designate lake sturgeon as a federally endangered species.
Lake sturgeon are a prehistoric fish that were once plentiful in the Great Lakes but have been reduced to extremely low levels by pollution, overfishing and habitat destruction. The species are already listed as endangered in multiple states including Indiana. A federal designation would mean more protections, including funding.
Last year federal regulators said there was “substantial information” on continuing threats to sturgeon, which would warrant a larger study about whether they should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. However, it could take years as hundreds of other species are awaiting similar studies.
According to the lawsuit filed last month in Chicago, federal officials didn’t meet a key deadline in making the determination.
“The lawsuit is an attempt to speed up that timeline,” Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity told The Herald-Times.
Other groups bringing the lawsuit were Fishable Indiana Streams for Hoosiers, the Hoosier Environmental Council and the Illinois-based Prairie Rivers Network.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined comment to the newspaper because it’s an active case. Agency officials didn’t immediately return a message left Sunday.