BILLINGS, Mont. — As efforts falter to save North America's largest freshwater fish — a toothless beast left over from the days of dinosaurs — officials hope to stave off extinction by sending more water hurtling down a river so the fish can spawn in the wild.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday said attempts over the past two years to save the endangered Kootenai River white sturgeon had failed.
The prehistoric sturgeon, characterized by its large head and armor-like scales, can reach 19 feet long and top 1,000 pounds.
An isolated population of the species lives along a stretch of the Kootenai that passes through Montana, northern Idaho and southern British Columbia. Fewer than 500 of the bottom-feeding behemoths survive, and it's been 35 years since they successfully spawned.
The problem is Libby Dam, a hydroelectric facility in Montana run by the Army Corps of Engineers that serves power markets in the Pacific Northwest. When it went up in 1974, it stopped periodic flooding of Bonners Ferry, Idaho — but also high water flows that triggered the sturgeon to move upriver and spawn.
After years of litigation, the U.S. government agreed to alter how it runs the dam and more closely mimic historical water flows. That hasn't worked. Fisheries officials and the Corps now say they plan to spill more water next spring.
It could be one of the last chances to stave off disaster for the massive fish: Biologists say it could otherwise be on track for extinction within the next decade.
Even with the increased spillover, the Kootenai River would rise to less than half historical levels.
The plan to save the fish in the Kootenai came out of a 2008 settlement with environmentalists who'd sued the U.S. government.
To satisfy the requirements of the Endangered Species Act, the fish would have to reproduce naturally before the species is considered recovered.
Our Adopt a Sturgeon program lets you learn about a sturgeon you sponsor, track its travels through our recapture data and receive updates! Adopt a Sturgeon today!
.FRSCS is grateful for the support from the media for helping to raise awareness about the serious issues facing the Fraser River white sturgeon
As big river fishes, sturgeons are ill-suited for life in all but large and specially constructed aquaria. (Species that are protected cannot be legally possessed without special permits.) Sand- or bare-bottomed tanks are recommended since gravel can injure a sturgeon's sensitive barbels and mouth. Also make sure the tank has as much open swimming area as possible, as aquarium-kept sturgeons tend to get stuck behind filter intake tubes, wedged under rocks and other aquarium fixtures, and even trapped within plants. A sturgeon attempting to extricate itself from such a situation may succumb to exhaustion or stress. The sturgeon's rostrum also can take a beating in the hard, angular surfaces of aquarium life, sometimes leading to fatal infections. If you can round off the corners in a sturgeon aquarium, by all means do.
Biologists who study sturgeons in captivity often keep them in expensive water-circulating aquaria designed to simulate strong river currents, increase dissolved oxygen, and maintain superior water quality. Researchers at the U.S. Army Corp of Engineer's Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Mississippi, feed hatchery reared juvenile Pallid Sturgeon commercial salmon pellets and report outstanding growth and health, However, wild-caught specimens refuse prepared foods and only begin to accept shrimp and chunks of frozen bloodworms after a couple of weeks in captivity.
Hatchery-raised juveniles of Shovelnose Sturgeon and White Sturgeon are occasionally sold in tropical fish stores. Juvenile sturgeons are irrepressibly cute; even normally detached researchers fall under the spell of their charm. "In the lab, juveniles demonstrate an uncanny similarity to puppies," wrote three sturgeon biologists, "swimming in summersaults, wagging their tails and watching with beady, reflective eyes at feeding times. Indeed, when fed a diet of floating pellets, these fish will learn to feed, while 'belly-up,' from the surface. This 'unfishlike' behaviour often allows an attachment between researcher and subject that is unknown with other fish species."
The sturgeon species most likely to survive for long periods in the average home aquarium is the Shovelnose Sturgeon. They can tolerate higher temperatures and will eat a variety of live and frozen foods, such as blackworms and frozen brine shrimp. Shovelnose Sturgeon can be trained to accept prepared diets, but care must be taken not to feed too much at once as they are slow eaters.
Keeping White Sturgeon in captivity means having the space to accommodate their growth; it is, don't forget, the largest fish in North America. One account in the aquarium literature reported 7.6 cm (3 in) White Sturgeon juveniles growing to 51 cm (20 in) in 18 months. This account also described the sturgeon's behavior in captivity, and steps taken to prevent its injury. The sturgeon were ceaselessly active and more rowdy than usual at night; keeping the tank dimly lit after hours seemed to calm them down. Because of their near-constant swimming, they were fed 5-6 times a day. The sturgeon also had the habit of sticking their heads out of the water, whereupon they bashed their rostra on the glass cover and cut it on the little lip that's around the inner perimeter of the top of the aquarium. The author raised the glass cover 12 inches from the top of the tank, and created a "bumper" around the top of the aquarium with silicone and tape. By the time these sturgeon reached 20 inches, they were eating a half-pound of earthworms, shrimp, and smelt per fish per week.
Obviously, the sturgeon's size, long life, and habitat requirements preclude them from spawning in the home aquarium. However, the artificial propagation of sturgeons in private and government fish hatcheries has been successful.
Today, we're proud that California is a recognised leader in sustainable Transmontanus White Sturgeon Caviar production.
Although there's a restriction in the state, due to the natural habitat laws, that only the White Sturgeon can be raised, this Caviar is quite delightful and is rated as a fine Caviar by many top US chefs. The white sturgeon is an ancient fish, which produces a rich creamy caviar.
The California Sturgeon farm has a micro-ecosystem in place: where filtered water ultimately passes through a 4 acre hydroponics pond, that will be blooming with vegetables harvested year around. This whole process is designed to clean and recharge the waters so that the Sturgeon can swim in the most pristine and mineral rich recycled waters. That means, virtually no mercury, residual pesticides, pollutants or chemicals are found in the sustainable waters.
Sometimes considered an Osetra spelled as (oscietra oscietre, osscietre, ossetra, asetra, osiotr, oscetra, etc.) this is an excellent American Transmontanus Caviar produced in California.
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/l ... ish18.html
http://www.caviarcaviar.com/Farmed-Cavi ... -Sturgeon/