Thursday, September 12, 2019

A Pallid Sturgeon Moon

Pallid sturgeon juvenile yearling at 5 months. USFWS Image

The August Full Moon is sometimes called the Sturgeon Moon, a name given by fishing tribes for whom this large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water was most readily caught during this month.

All five U.S. Atlantic sturgeon distinct population segments are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

These populations are threatened by entanglement in fishing gear, habitat degradation, and habitat impediments such as dams and other barriers and vessel strikes.

The juvenile pallid sturgeon yearling (Scaphirhynchus albus) shown above is a bottom-dwelling, slow-growing fish that feed primarily on small fish and immature aquatic insects. This species of sturgeon is seldom seen and is one of the least understood fish in the Missouri and Mississippi River drainages. It is an ancient species that has existed since the days of the dinosaurs.

Pallid sturgeon - Photo by South Dakota Game Fish and Parks; Sam Stukel

In New Jersey, we are more familiar with Atlantic Sturgeon and shortnose sturgeon. They are an anadromous fish species that are also multiple spawners. This species can inhabit marine, brackish fresh waters. As adults, the Atlantic sturgeon will migrate along the Atlantic coast. These fish will then begin to ascend the lower reaches of large rivers, such as the Delaware, in the spring to begin their spawning runs. Spawning normally occurs over bedrock, boulders and gravel bottoms. Adult Atlantic sturgeon will then return to the sea after spawning.

The pallid sturgeon's habitat is the Mississippi River downstream of its confluence with the Missouri River, and its range includes Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Tennessee

Like other sturgeon, the pallid sturgeon experienced a dramatic decline throughout its range since the mid to late 1960s. Nearly all of its habitat has been modified through river channelization, construction of impoundments, and related changes in water flow. These changes blocked the pallid sturgeon's movements, destroyed or altered its spawning areas, reduced its food sources or its ability to obtain food, and altered water temperatures and other environmental conditions necessary for the fish's survival.

The pallid sturgeon was listed as endangered in 1990 and recovery efforts include research to learn more about its life history and habitat requirements, artificial propagation to improve its numbers, habitat improvement and reducing mortality from commercial fishing.

In September 2010, threatened status for the Shovelnose Sturgeon and pallid sturgeon listed to protect pallid sturgeon by treating shovelnose sturgeon as a threatened species where their ranges overlap.

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