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September 27, 2000


Tom MacKenzie, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (404) 679-7291

For pictures and more information; Alabama Sturgeon

An Alabama sturgeon being held at the Marion State Fish Hatchery diedSeptember 19, 2000. The fish was promptly transported to Auburn University for examination and to determine a cause of death. One other Alabama sturgeon remains alive and well at the hatchery.

Marion State Fish Hatchery officials characterized the deceased
Alabama sturgeon as normal on Monday. When it was found dead on Tuesday morning, it showed no external signs of illness or stress, no lesions or hemorrhages.

"With the loss of a captive male fish last week, efforts to save the
Alabama sturgeon are even more important now," said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We'll continue to work closely with our state and federal partners as we review and strengthen the Alabama sturgeon culture program and move forward on our recovery efforts."

"Plans to breed Alabama sturgeon are dampened but not defeated by the loss of one of the potential brood fish," said Fred Harders, Assistant Director for the Wildlife and Fresh Water Fisheries Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. "Our biologists have provided the best known care for this fish since it was captured in 1998 and sustaining it for two years has been a notable accomplishment."

"State biologists have done a remarkable job," agreed Hamilton. "Most sturgeon species are difficult to keep in captivity, even for a few months. Maintaining Alabama sturgeon for an extended period has allowed biologists to gain valuable information for further sturgeon work."

Much of the Alabama sturgeon work has been focused on collection efforts over the last few years. Biologists with the State, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have already devoted thousands of hours trying to catch Alabama sturgeon for brood stock purposes. Hundreds of hours more will be logged this fall and next spring as fishing resumed in September and will end in early December, then start again in March until May.

"I've got to hand it to the state biologists," said Frank Parauka, lead fishery biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sturgeon collection effort. "They have been out front on sturgeon sampling. They have put in the time, learned the river systems, and made good things happen by catching some fish."

In addition to collecting fish for propagation and augmentation of Alabama sturgeon populations, other recovery efforts include developing information on the fish's life history and habitat needs, implementing conservation measures and management strategies, and identifying and protecting existing occupied Alabama sturgeon habitat.

The Alabama sturgeon is a slender, prehistoric-looking, freshwater fish that was historically widespread in the mobile River Basin of Alabama and Mississippi. It grows to about 30 inches in length and weighs two to three pounds. The Alabama sturgeon was listed as an endangered species in May, primarily due to its low population numbers and subsequent lack of ability to sustain itself through natural reproduction.

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 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 525 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 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 governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at http:/southeast.fws.gov. Our national home page is at: http://www.fws.gov.

Atlanta, GA 30345

Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286

2000 News Releases

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