Endangered Species
Mountain-Prairie Region
Pallid Sturgeon

pallid sturgeon

Species Description: The pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) has a flattened, shovel-shaped snout, possesses a long, slender, and completely armored caudal peduncle, and lacks a spiracle and belly scutes. Pallid sturgeon are bottom-oriented species. Pallid sturgeon can be long-lived (40+ years), with females reaching sexual maturity later than males. Pallid sturgeon at the northern end of their range can obtain sizes much larger than fish at the southern end of their range.

Species Factsheet

Location: Pallid sturgeon are found only in portions of the Missouri and Mississippi River basins. More specifically, the species is known to occur in the following areas:

  • Missouri River in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota
  • Mississippi River in Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois (downstream from Melvin Price Locks and Dam), Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri (downstream from Melvin Price Locks and Dam), and Tennessee
  • Platte River in Nebraska downstream of Elkhorn River confluence
  • a portion of the Kansas River downstream from Bowersock Dam
  • Yellowstone River in North Dakota and Montana downstream of the Bighorn River confluence
  • and the Atchafalaya River in Louisiana

There have been occasional observations in the lower Big Sioux River of South Dakota, the Grand River in Missouri, and the Mississippi River near Keokuk, Iowa.

Actions: On March 4, 2013, the Service announced the availability of a revised recovery plan for the pallid sturgeon. This document is the first revision to the recovery plan since 1993. The revised recovery plan documents the current understanding of the species life history requirements, identifies probable threats that were not originally recognized, includes revised recovery criteria, and based on improved understanding of the species, describes those actions believed necessary to eventually delist the species.

On September 1, 2010, the Service announced a final rule to treat the Shovelnose Sturgeon as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (Act). The Service has determined it necessary to list the shovelnose sturgeon due to its similarity of appearance to the pallid sturgeon. Under this determination, the shovelnose sturgeon will be considered a threatened species in the portions of it range where it commonly overlaps with the endangered pallid sturgeon. Due to the similarity of appearance between the two sturgeon species, identification of the protected pallid sturgeon is difficult in the field, resulting in pallid sturgeon being mistakenly harvested as shovelnose sturgeon. We believe this action will aid the conservation and recovery of pallid sturgeon.

The Service is also enacting a special rule that will prohibit the harvest of any shovelnose sturgeon or shovelnose-pallid sturgeon hybrids, and the roe associated with or related to a commercial fishing activity. The special rule will apply only to activities that relate to the harvest of shovelnose sturgeon and shovelnose-pallid sturgeon hybrids for commercial fishing purposes and is not expected to impact commercial fishing targeting non-sturgeon species, recreational or other non-sturgeon commercial fishing activities. This special rule would not prohibit the legal commercial harvest of shovelnose sturgeon outside the range where it commonly overlaps with pallid sturgeon.

In 1990, we listed the pallid sturgeon as endangered under the Act. Threats identified in the listing package were habitat modifications, small population size, limited natural reproduction, hybridization, pollution and contaminants, and commercial harvest.

In 1993, we released the pallid sturgeon recovery plan. The short-term recovery objective was to prevent species extinction by establishing three captive brookstock populations in separate hatcheries. The long-term objective was to downlist and delist the species through protection, habitat restoration, and propagation activities by 2040.

In June 2007, the Service completed a 5-year review of the status of the pallid sturgeon. This status review concluded no change in its listed status under the Act was necessary.

Service employee holding pallid sturgeon

Archives Actions

More information can be found on the Service's ECOS webpage or the North Dakota Ecological Services website

Last updated: March 5, 2014