Raising pallid sturgeon in hatcheries and stocking them in the river is not the solution to saving the species, but it is an important part of recovering them. The hatcheries help preserve genetic diversity and maintain population structure while we are addressing the factors limiting the pallid sturgeon population.
Pallid Sturgeon Propagation and Population Augmentation Program
The Pallid Sturgeon Propagation and Population Augmentation Program (Program) has utilized up to six hatcheries throughout the Missouri River basin to meet the stocking needs of the species. These hatcheries include:
- Blind Pony State Fish Hatchery (Blind Pony Hatchery), Sweet Springs, Mo.,
- Neosho National Fish Hatchery (Neosho Hatchery), Neosho, Mo.,
- Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery (Gavins Point Hatchery), Yankton, S.D.,
- Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery (Garrison Dam Hatchery), Riverdale, N.D.,
- Miles City State Fish Hatchery (Miles City Hatchery), Miles City, Mont., and
- Bozeman Fish Technology Center (Bozeman FTC), Bozeman, Mont.
Goals of the Project
The Program consists of two primary components at the present time. The Annual Supplemental Support component of the program provides resources to each of the participating hatcheries as determined by the Pallid Propagation Team to ensure the most equitable use of the project's resources to meet the stocking needs of the species. This annual supplemental support targets fulfilling the annual stocking shortfall (Average Annual Shortfall) as identified in the Biological Opinion. The annual supplemental support enhances pallid sturgeon production capabilities by covering increased costs associated with feed, utilities, distribution costs, various maintenance items and operational costs incurred through the facility improvements component of the program. The Facility Improvements component of the project was a short-term approach to addressing limitations of the hatcheries in meeting annual stocking targets. The effort (completed in 2007) increased the quantity and the quality of the hatchery produced pallid sturgeon to more effectively fulfill the stocking goals in each of the Recovery Management Units within the Missouri River System. Since 2000, the collective hatchery production capability has increased five-fold. The combination of the facility improvement projects and the annual supplemental support enables the effort to focus on the population augmentation needs of the pallid sturgeon relative to recovery of the species.
The benefits of a collective approach to capturing, spawning and rearing pallid sturgeon is critical to the overall success of the population augmentation program. Multi-agency cooperative efforts provide increased numbers of broodstock and redundancy in the fish-rearing effort helps ensure overall success in the event of disease or other catastrophic loss at any one facility.
A variety of marking methods have been utilized to identify hatchery fish, which enhances scientists' understanding of the species (i.e., growth, movement, survival). The Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag provides the maximum amount of information specific to individual fish. Smaller juveniles (that cannot be PIT tagged based on size) are marked with tags such as an elastomer tag (visual) or a coded wire tag. These tags provide less information, but at a minimum differentiate between hatchery and wild fish. In the event of no tag, as is the case when fry (less than 20 days old) are stocked, the genetic tools are now available to differentiate these stocked fish from naturally reproduced.
Hatchery Production Capabilities
The graphic shows the maximum hatchery production capabilities for the Gavins Point, Garrison Dam, Miles City, Blind Pony, and Neosho hatcheries and the Bozeman Fish Technology Center, collectively. The graphic is based on maximum allowable densities of .5 pounds of fish per square foot of rearing space and fish length of approximately 8 inches (fork length). Note that the hatcheries will operate at densities below the recommended maximum allowable levels to minimize stress that would likely reduce the overall quality of the fish and potential for successful stocking.