Range-wide assessment of pallid sturgeon Scaphirhynchus albus (Forbes & Richardson, 1905) relative condition


Pallid sturgeon Scaphirhynchus albus relative condition has been observed to be declining along the Nebraska reach (rkm 1212.6–801.3) of the Missouri River over the past several years; therefore, pallid sturgeon capture data was synthesized from the entire Missouri and Middle Mississippi rivers to document and compare how pallid sturgeon condition varies spatially and temporally throughout much of their current range. The study area was subdivided into four river reaches based on a priori statistical differences for pallid sturgeon catches from 2003 to 2015. Pallid sturgeon in the Middle Mississippi River (Alton Dam [rkm 321.9]) to the confluence of the Ohio River (rkm 0.0) were in the best condition while pallid sturgeon in the Middle Missouri River (Fort Randall Dam [rkm 1416.2]) to the Grand River confluence (rkm 402.3) were in the poorest condition. Furthermore, pallid sturgeon condition in the Upper Missouri River (Fort Peck Dam [rkm 2850.9] to the headwaters of Lake Sakakawea [rkm 2523.5] and lower Yellowstone River) and the Lower Missouri River (Grand River confluence to the Mississippi River confluence [rkm 0.0]) were significantly less than in the Middle Mississippi River but significantly higher than the Middle Missouri River. Temporally, pallid sturgeon condition was highly variable. Relative condition in the Middle Mississippi River was consistently above average (Kn = 1.1). Comparatively, Kn throughout the Missouri River rarely exceeded “normal” (Kn = 1.0), with Kn in the middle and lower reaches of the Missouri River having declined to the lowest observed. As pallid sturgeon recovery efforts continue, understanding the range-wide differences and effects on condition could be critical, as poor condition may cause maturation delays, reproductive senescence or even mortality, which affects the likelihood of natural reproduction and recruitment.

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Journal of Applied Ichthyology