[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]



Moving to rescue one of the world's most ancient fish from
extinction, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners
released 750 endangered pallid sturgeons into the Missouri and
Yellowstone rivers near Williston, North Dakota, on August 11. 
These young fish will bolster a remnant population of aging
sturgeon, which otherwise are expected to die out within 20

"We cannot sit by and watch as this ancient species fades into
extinction," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, director of the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service, in a prepared statement.  "The pallid
sturgeon has survived everything nature has thrown at it over
millions of years.  It would be a shame to see it disappear
because of human activities during the past 50 years or so."

A number of other officials interested in the effort, including
Senator Kent Conrad; Dr. Joseph W. Westphal, Assistant Secretary
of the Army (Civil Works); Dean Hildebrand, Director, North
Dakota Game and Fish Department; Larry Peterman, Fisheries
Administrator, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks;
and Kirk Koepsel, Northern Plains Regional Representative of the
Sierra Club, were on hand to celebrate and help with the release.

The pallid sturgeon was listed as endangered in 1990 after
biologists concluded that the population was declining
drastically toward extinction.  A strategy was developed to boost
the population with young sturgeon raised in hatcheries, followed
by efforts to restore enough of the pallid's habitat to allow
them to reproduce in the wild.  The 750 young pallids were bred
from wild sturgeon captured in the Missouri River.  The few
remaining wild pallid sturgeons in the region have not reproduced
in at least 20 years and are nearing the end of their life

"Endangered means there's still time--and this stocking effort
today buys us even more," said Skip Ladd, assistant Mountain
Prairie regional director.  "We need that time to restore side
channels and backwater areas so the habitat more closely
resembles the original free-flowing river this species prefers. 
We believe there are ways to operate dams that are more favorable
to pallid sturgeons and other wildlife."

                        LIVING DINOSAURS

Pallid sturgeons were swimming in these rivers during the
Jurassic Period when dinosaurs roamed the shores.  They have bony
plates instead of scales, and a reptile-like tail.  The fish,
grayish-white on the back and sides, can weigh up to 80 pounds
and reach 6 feet in length.  Their mouths are toothless and
positioned under the snout for sucking small fishes and
invertebrates from the river bottom.  Pallid sturgeons can live
up to 50 years but mature and reproduce slowly.

Pallids thrived even as the dinosaurs died out and have survived
every climatic and geological shift that has occurred since. 
Native Americans consumed pallids for centuries.  As recently as
the 1940s, the upper Missouri River may have contained more than
100 pallids per mile.  Now they are nearly extinct.

                     DAMS CHANGED THE RIVERS

In 1937, the era of dam building began and all 3,350 miles of the
pallid sturgeon's river habitat changed more in a few decades
than it had in the previous 150 million years.  To provide water
supplies, facilitate shipping, and control flooding, the Missouri
and the Mississippi rivers were engineered into a series of
reservoirs connected by deep, straight channels.  This has been
hard for pallid sturgeon and other big-river fish, which require
the diversity of depths and current formed by braided channels,
sand bars, sand faults, eroding banks, and gravel bars.

The pallid sturgeon was the first and is still the only fish
species of the Missouri, Yellowstone, and Mississippi rivers
listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, but other
big-river native fish species are in trouble, too.  Many of the
actions that contribute to pallid sturgeon recovery will also
benefit species such as the sturgeon chub, sicklefin chub, and

                    THE LONG ROAD TO RECOVERY

"The stocking won't be the end of efforts to restore the pallid
sturgeon," said Mark Dryer, a fisheries biologist and former
leader of the pallid sturgeon recovery team.  "We plan to monitor
these young fish and repeat the stocking process in the next 6
years but the long-term fate of the pallid sturgeon depends on
continued protection and restoring its habitat."

The August event in North Dakota will mark the first time young
pallid sturgeon have been placed in the upper reaches of the
Missouri River.  The release is the culmination of many years of
intense effort and cooperation among Federal and state biologists
to spawn pallid sturgeons from the upper Missouri River.  In June
1997, Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery at Yankton, South
Dakota, was successful after 9 years of attempts.  The 10- to 14-
inch fish going into the river next month are the offspring of
five adults captured in western North Dakota in the fall of 1996
and reared at the Gavins Point and Valley City (North Dakota)
national fish hatcheries.

Some pallids have been stocked in the lower Missouri River, the
Mississippi River, and the lower Platte River.  These sturgeon
were reared in Missouri at Blind Pony State Fish Hatchery near
Sweet Springs, the only other facility to successfully spawn and
rear pallid sturgeon at the time.

"There is no way the Service or any other public agency can
single-handedly conserve our Nation's fish and wildlife
resources," said Ladd.  "I want to thank the states of North
Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Missouri for working with us
to reach this milestone in the recovery of the pallid sturgeon
and helping us rescue this remnant of the dinosaur era from

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal
agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish
and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the
American people.  The Service's nearly 93 million acres include
514 national wildlife refuges, 78 ecological services field
stations, 66 national fish hatcheries, 50 wildlife coordination
areas, and 38 wetland management districts with waterfowl
production areas. 

The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, manages migratory bird
populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves
and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, administers the
Endangered Species Act, and helps foreign governments with their
conservation efforts.  It also oversees the Federal Aid program
that distributes Federal excise taxes on fishing and hunting
equipment to state wildlife agencies.  This program is a
cornerstone of the Nation's wildlife management efforts, funding
fish and wildlife restoration, boating access, hunter education,
shooting ranges, and related projects across America.


News releases are also available on the World Wide Web at 
http://www.fws.gov/r9extaff/pubaff.html  They can be reviewed
in chronological order or searched by keyword.

Questions concerning a particular news release or item of
information should be directed to the person listed as the
contact. General comments or observations concerning the
content of the information should be directed to Craig
Rieben (craig_rieben at mail_fws.gov) in the Office of Public

To unsubscribe from the fws-news listserver, send e-mail to
listserv at www_fws.gov with "unsubscribe fws-news your name" (and omit
the "quotes") in the **body** of the message. You should not
include anything on the Subject: line.

For additional information about listserver commands, send a
message to listserv at www_fws.gov with "help fws-news" (and
no "quotes") in the body of the message.