Plan To Protect Rare Fish

Plan to protect rare fish that habitats the Missouri River.

A draft recovery plan aimed at recovering the federally endangered pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus), a bottom-feeding fish considered to be a relic of the dinosaur era, is available for public review and comment from March 15 to April 15, 2013.

Pallid Sturgeon are an important indicator of the health of several of America’s largest rivers, and represent a unique piece of America’s natural history, with fossil ancestors dating back over 70 million years. The draft revised plan summarizes and updates the available information on the species life history needs, reevaluates the threats to the species, and identifies recovery efforts.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) originally drafted the recovery plan in 1993 as an outline of the steps necessary to recover the imperiled fish, which dates back to the prehistoric era. Revisions to the recovery plan will allow the Service and its conservation partners to better address threats such as habitat destruction to the imperiled fish.

“In order to keep pace with the rapidly changing and heavily used rivers the pallid sturgeon calls home, we are updating its recovery plan to better meet the conservation challenges,” said Noreen Walsh, Mountain-Prairie regional director. “It’s our goal to conserve and protect this ‘living dinosaur’ from extinction for future generations of Americans.”

A number of threats to the pallid sturgeon’s habitat have complicated the recovery of this freshwater fish. Human modification of its river habitat such as river channelization, impoundment, and altered flow regimes are in part responsible. Degraded water quality and disease are among other factors proving challenges to recovery of the pallid sturgeon.

Historically, its distribution included the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers in Montana downstream to the Missouri-Mississippi confluence and the Mississippi River possibly from near Keokuk, Iowa downstream to New Orleans, Louisiana. Pallid sturgeon were also found in the lower reaches of some of the larger tributaries to the Missouri, Mississippi, and Yellowstone rivers including the Tongue, Milk, Niobrara, Platte, Kansas, Big Sioux, St. Francis, and Grand rivers. The total length of the pallid sturgeon range historically was about 5,656 River kilometers (3,515 River miles).

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners have been working diligently to recovery the pallid sturgeon by artificially propagating and stocking sturgeon, population monitoring and researching the life history and needs of the pallid sturgeon for natural reproduction. In addition, the Service and partners are working to create fish passages at Intake Dam on the Yellowstone River in Montana.

Today, wild pallid sturgeon persist in the un-impounded reaches of the Missouri River, Mississippi River and some of their larger tributaries. Pallid sturgeon observations and records have increased with sampling effort in the middle and lower Mississippi River. Additionally, in 1991 the species was identified in the Atchafalaya River of Louisiana, and in 2011 pallid sturgeon were documented entering the lower reaches of the Arkansas River.


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