Scaphirhynchus Conference: Alabama, Pallid, and Shovelnose Sturgeon

St. Louis, Missouri, 11-13 January 2005

10.  FISH HEALTH ASSESSMENT OF CAPTIVE-REARED PALLID STURGEON AND RECOVERY IMPLICATIONS

Beth MacConnell*, Linda Beck, and Crystal Hudson, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bozeman Fish Health Center, 920 Technology Blvd., Bozeman, MT 59718; Phone 406 582-8656; FAX 406 587-3998, beth_macconnell@fws.gov

The restoration and recovery plan for pallid sturgeon,(Scaphirhynchus albus) in the Missouri River Basin calls for stocking juvenile fish.  Since the development of sturgeon aquaculture significant losses and negative impacts on conservation programs have been attributed to diseases, especially viral diseases, in the USA and Europe. The knowledge of sturgeon diseases and sensitive diagnostic techniques are considerably less than that of trout, salmon, and catfish. Viral outbreaks and associated mortality in juvenile pallid sturgeon reared in hatcheries located in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota have occurred annually since 1999.  Stocking of virus-infected survivors and their potential impacts on wild sturgeon populations have caused considerable concern among managers. A pre-release assessment of juvenile pallid sturgeon was developed to evaluate fish health.  Prior to release, production lots are randomly sampled and analyzed for liver fat, skin condition and virus status. Efforts to understand and manage this disease, identify the source of infection or carrier fish, and determine virus distribution will be presented.