Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Journal of Applied Ichthyology
Shovelnose sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus, Rafinesque, 1820) in the Wabash River, Illinois/Indiana, USA, provide an important recreational sport and commercial caviar fishery. In fact, it is one of the last commercially viable populations for sturgeon roe harvest. Due to increased demand in the caviar trade and endangered species legislation that protect shovelnose sturgeon in only a portion of their range, efforts of the roe harvest market may continue to divert toward unprotected populations like the shovelnose sturgeon in the Wabash River. Previous studies have shown that increased harvest pressure in this species can affect the age‐at‐maturation and result in recruitment overfishing. Therefore, it is important to closely and continuously monitor commercially exploited populations. Over the past decade (2007– 2016), 13,170 shovelnose sturgeon were sampled with boat electroshocking, hoop nets, drift nets, trotlines, and benthic electrified trawls. Captured fish ranged from 61 to 910 mm fork length (FL; mean = 668 mm), with very few fish less than 550 mm FL. Although fish were found to be in a healthy condition (mean relative weight = 87), there was a decrease in the mean condition over time. In addition, we saw declines in mean FL, weight of roe‐per‐fish, and size‐at‐maturity for female fish directly impacted by harvest. The decline of these population parameters, coupled with an increase in total annual mortality and a truncated age frequency distribution, suggest that harvest is negatively impacting the demographics and recruitment of shovelnose sturgeon in the Wabash River. Considering the downward trajectory of population dynamics and high estimates of mortality, their resiliency to continued harvest and environmental changes will be limited.
Thornton, Jessica L.; Nepal, Vaskar; Frankland, Leslie D.; Jansen, Craig R.; Hirst, Jana; and Colombo, Robert E., Monitoring demographics of a commercially exploited population of shovelnose sturgeon in the Wabash River, Illinois/Indiana, USA (2019). Journal of Applied Ichthyology, 35, 360-369.