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New research shows fishery management practices for beluga sturgeon must change
Date:2/25/2010

results of the analyses* conducted by the participating scientists show that fishing pressure far exceeds sustainable levels and that limiting the take of adult and subadult sturgeon will contribute more to the population growth rate as compared with hatchery supplementation.

The beluga sturgeon can live more than 100 years, and do not reach maturity until 9 to 20 years of age. The researchers found that the optimal age of first harvest is 31 years because older and larger fish produce more eggs. Conservation efforts would be much more effective than current practices if minimum size limits for fishing targeted this optimum age for first capture and if the illegal harvest of subadult fish were reduced. These fishing limits would allow the survival of subadult and adult females and would increase population productivity by ten times that achieved by hatchery supplementation, according to the study's findings.

Currently the fishery management focus for beluga sturgeon conservation is on using hatcheries to sustain the population. However, survival of hatchery-reared fish in the wild is thought to be very low. Additionally, genetic diversity may be compromised by hatchery practices, which can potentially jeopardize the long-term survival of all beluga sturgeon. Despite the potential threats posed by hatchery fish, regulatory agencies allow more fishing (higher quotas) by countries with higher hatchery output.

"This study clearly shows that reducing the mortality of wild beluga sturgeon adults is a much more effective conservation strategy than hatchery supplementation," said Dr. Ellen Pikitch, Executive Director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science and a co-author of the study. "Ten hatchery fish would need to be produced to achieve the same conservation benefit as preventing the kill of a single wild beluga sturgeon. It's clear that the focus of sturgeon management in the region has been misplaced and must change. A shift in pra
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Contact: Cindy Yeast
media@oceanconservationscience.org
202-236-5413
Stony Brook University
Source:Eurekalert

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