U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service | Southeast Region News Release
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Sturgeon Listing Causes No Feared Economic Downturns


May 8, 2001

Ralph Thompson, FWS, (334) 441-5181 x25
Paul Hartfield, FWS, (601) 965-4900 x125
Jerry DeBin, State of AL (334) 242-3151
Tom MacKenzie, FWS (404) 679-7291

For Pictures and more information; Alabama Sturgeon

One year ago the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a final rule to add the Alabama sturgeon to the Federal list of threatened and endangered species. Fears that this listing would restrict the navigation and other human uses of the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers have proven to be unfounded.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Regional Director, Sam D. Hamilton, noted recently that since this rare, freshwater fish was officially classified as endangered, there have been no reported incidents of endangered species-related stoppages or interference with shipping, boating, barge movements, dredging, or other activities on these Alabama rivers. The Endangered Species Act is a Federal law that recognizes and protects rare animals and plants that are endangered with extinction, or threatened with becoming endangered in the near future.

Since the sturgeon was listed, the Service has reviewed approximately 25 federal actions taking place in the Alabama River area for possible impacts to the sturgeon as well as to other previously listed species such as the Gulf sturgeon and three species of freshwater mussels.

"We have determined that none of these actions, which included waste water discharge permits, highway repairs, borrow pits, and housing projects, would affect any of the listed species," Hamilton said.

The Alabama sturgeon is a freshwater fish once so abundant in the Mobile River basin of Alabama and Mississippi that it was caught and sold commercially. The sturgeon's decline began more than a century ago as a result of over-fishing, navigation-related development, and water quality degradation. Today, the species is found only in the lower Alabama River and its numbers are believed to be too low for natural reproduction to replace sturgeon lost to natural mortality.

The Service, in cooperation with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Alabama-Tombigbee Rivers Coalition, began efforts in 1997 to capture sturgeon, breed them in captivity, and release hatchery-reared sturgeon into the river.

"Working with the Fish and Wildlife Service on the sturgeon listing produced a partnership between Alabama and the Federal government that we hope to continue" said Riley Boykin Smith, Commissioner, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Only five Alabama sturgeon have been captured so far and only a single fish has survived in captivity. Nevertheless, much was learned about this fish's survival habits and needs. For instance, a proper diet has been developed, disease treatments have been successfully administered, specific water quality and holding conditions have been identified, and methods to artificially induce spawning have been developed. In addition to collection and propagation efforts, the Service, the State, and the Corps have worked together to identify important habitats in the Alabama river and to develop strategies for the protection and management of these resources.

Collection efforts for sturgeon in the Alabama River have doubled since the 2000 listing was published and no additional fish have been caught. However, the partners in recovery of the Alabama sturgeon remain committed to a cooperative approach to protection and management of the Alabama sturgeon and its habitat. By working together to develop and apply research and new information about this species and its needs, it is unlikely that economic conflicts will arise due to conservation efforts undertaken to recover the fish.

The Alabama sturgeon is a slender fish, growing to about 30 inches in length and is a golden-yellow color. A mature fish weighs 2 to 3 pounds. The head is broad, and flattened shovel-like at the snout. Bony plates cover the head, back, and sides. The body narrows abruptly to the rear to form a narrow stalk between the body and tail. The upper lobe of the tail fin is elongated and ends in a long filament.

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 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 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.

Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

For 300 dpi Photo Click on Smaller Photo

Other Information on Alabama Sturgeons

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://news.fws.gov/newsreleases/.

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

2001 News Releases

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