Effects of acclimation on poststocking dispersal of age-1 pallid sturgeon
Oldenburg, Eric William
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A propagation program for pallid sturgeon Scaphirhynchus albus in the upper Missouri River was implemented by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1997. Preliminary research indicated that many hatchery-reared pallid sturgeon were experiencing significant downstream poststocking dispersal, negatively affecting their recruitment. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of acclimation to flow and site-specific physicochemical water conditions on poststocking dispersal and physiological condition of age-1 pallid sturgeon. Fish from three acclimation treatments were radio-tagged, released at two locations (Missouri River and Marias River), and monitored using passive remote telemetry stations. Marias treatment was acclimated to flow and site-specific physicochemical conditions in tanks along the Marias River. Bozeman treatment was acclimated to flow in tanks at the Bozeman Fish Technology Center (BFTC), and traditional treatment had no acclimation (reared at the BFTC under traditional protocol). During both years fish released in the Missouri River dispersed less than fish released in the Marias River. In 2005, Marias treatment dispersed less and nearly twice as many fish remained in the Missouri River reach than traditional treatment.In 2006, pallid sturgeon dispersed similarly among treatments and fish remaining in the Missouri River reach were similar among all treatments. Differences in poststocking dispersal between years may be related to fin curl. Fin curl was present in all fish in 2005 and 27% of the fish in 2006. Pallid sturgeon from all treatments in both years had a greater affinity for the lower reaches of the Missouri River than the upper reaches. This area consists of more fines and sand substrate as opposed to gravel and cobble in the upper reaches. Thus, habitat at release site influenced poststocking dispersal more than acclimation treatment. No difference was observed in relative growth rate among treatments in 2006. However, acclimation to flow (i.e., exercise conditioning) may reduce liver fat content. Acclimation conditions used in this study may not benefit pallid sturgeon unless fin curl or fatty liver are present. It is evident from this study that natural resource agencies need to consider stocking location carefully to reduce poststocking dispersal.