Shortnose Sturgeon Stocking Success in the Savannah River

During 1984-1992, adult shortnose sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum) from the Savannah River were spawned and their offspring reared to various sizes prior to release in this river as part of a stock enhancement program. A total of 79,270 untagged and 18,213 tagged fish were released at various sites from river kilometer (rkm) 54 to 273. Mid and upriver stocking areas appeared to provide higher survival than downriver areas and stocking during November and December appeared more beneficial than during other months. However, regardless of stocking time or site, all stocked juveniles that were captured came from the same downriver nursery area (at the fresh-brackish water interface) used by wild fish. Stocked fish comprised at least 35.4% of juveniles captured and the low total number of juveniles captured suggests that the Savannah River population of shortnose sturgeon may be experiencing poor recruitment. Captures in other rivers indicate that shortnose sturgeon stocked at >1 year old exhibit less river fidelity than fish stocked at younger age and thus imprinting may be an issue to consider in future stocking programs. This study indicated that it is possible to enhance the abundance of the endangered shortnose sturgeon, but additional information is needed to conduct an efficient enhancement/restoration program.

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