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Pallid Sturgeon Of The Missouri

There are only 50 native specimens of pallid sturgeon remaining on the Upper Missouri River between Great Falls and Fort Peck Reservoir. If nothing is done to replenish their numbers, they will become extinct. 2,300 young pallids were hatched at the Bozeman Fish Technology Center managed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. The eggs came from one female in the Upper Missouri fertilized from four different male pallids. The 2,300 young pallids were stocked at four points in the 150 miles below Great Falls.

In 1998, 750 pallids were planted and a large portion survived but has not grown in weight. The reader can appreciate what a big job it is to retain this ancient fish in our Missouri River. Pallids like to swim downstream for feeding, then swim back upstream to spawn. They probably die when they swim down to Fort Peck Reservoir’s waters which do not produce bottom aquatic insects and minnows. A recent sampling found no naturally spawned pallids. Pallid Sturgeon can grow up to 50 pounds and become mature for spawning when 15 years old. Shovelnose sturgeon are thriving with an estimated 100,000 in the Great Falls to Fort Peck reach.

Primarily responsible for the near extinction of the pallid sturgeon, piping plover and the least tern, along with other Missouri River inhabitants which are on the decline, is the US Army Corps of Engineers with their construction of large dams and lack of environmental safeguards in their planning and design process. They have brought many fresh water fish species to the brink of extinction in order to have steady water levels for a trickle of commercial barge traffic. In November 2000, fish and wildlife biologists at the US Fish & Wildlife Service delivered the results of their research, with recommendations to the Corps on ways to recover the pallid sturgeon, the piping plover and the interior least. Following were their recommendations:

1. Restore the river and its flood plains to provide essential natural areas for fish and wildlife to recover their numbers.

2. Modify flows from Fort Peck Dam to provide a semblance of the Missouri’s natural rise and fall of water levels. Lower summer flows also mean higher water levels in Fort Peck Reservoir, benefiting fishermen, boaters and recreation-dependent businesses down-river. Exposed sandbars and shallow, slower water, coupled with restored habitat, would make the Lower Missouri more inviting and accessible for fishing, camping, birding and recreational boating.

3. Do a comprehensive, independent, economical analysis of the entire river. ~

See related MRA web pages: Paddlefish / The Missouri River

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