Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

September 26, 2007

Contact:  Keith McGilvray, 605-665-3352

               George Jordan, 406-247-7365

               Wayne Stancill, 605-224-8693


Abnormal Cells found in Pallid Sturgeon at Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery Prohibit Stocking these Fish in the Wild


As a result of routine health testing, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service discovered that samples of  pallid sturgeons raised at the Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery, Yankton, South Dakota, contain abnormal cells. Biologists have determined they are not suitable to be used as part of the stocking program this year.  As a result, approximately 5,200 fish will need to be removed from the Hatchery.  Fish not suitable for stocking can be used for research, educational, or other scientific purposes.  Approximately 1,500 fish will be used in research and the Service will euthanize and dispose of the remaining 3,700 pallid sturgeons this week at the Hatchery.  These fish, raised this year for stocking, are now in excess of the Hatchery’s carrying capacity.  The remaining fish will be monitored and evaluated for stocking early next year.


“As much as we hate euthanizing these fish, we cannot take the chance of introducing pallid sturgeons that have health concerns into the waters of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers,” said Keith McGilvray, Acting Hatchery Manager, Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery.  “We are taking this precaution to ensure that we are not potentially introducing or spreading any unwanted pathogens.”


The Service is continuing to conduct health analyses and will implement changes necessary to ensure healthy fish at Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery in the future.


In 2007, pallid sturgeons raised at other locations from the same adults used to produce the progeny at Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery were stocked at the following locations: 

  • 433,843 fry in the Missouri River below fort Peck Dam, and 40,699 fry in the Yellowstone River 
  • 672 fingerlings in the Missouri River below Fort Peck Dam, and 672 in the Yellowstone River 
  • Additional stocking plans include 42,270 fingerlings below Fort Peck Dam this fall.  Next spring, an additional 8,270 in this area.  Plans also include stocking 15,000-18,000 yearlings below Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River.


The endangered pallid sturgeon is an ancient fish that can grow up to 6 feet long and weigh 85 pounds, with a lifespan of up to 100 years.  Dam construction, habitat alterations, and over-fishing are major causes of the pallid sturgeon's decline in the past 50 years. Historically, this fish was found in the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and their major tributaries.  Currently, it is found only in the Missouri River, the Mississippi River downstream of the Missouri River, the lower Yellowstone River, and Atchafalaya River. 


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 548 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.


- FWS -


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