Southeastern Fishes Council
Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes


Alabama Sturgeon On The Brink Of Extinction
November 12, 2008

Release from:
Lydia Seabol Avant
Tuscaloosa News (Alabama)

TUSCALOOSA - More than 675 fish species are found in the Southeastern U.S., but a quarter of the area's species are considered imperiled.

To try to prevent some fish from becoming extinct, scientists from the Southeastern Fishes Council have identified twelve fish in the region that are most at risk for extinction.

One of them, the Alabama sturgeon, used to swim freely along the southern parts of the Black Warrior River and the Tombigbee. The fish once swam more than 1,000 river miles of the Mobile Basin in Alabama and Mississippi. In 1898 records estimated that 19,000 Alabama sturgeon were commercially harvested.

But now it could disappear completely within a few years.

The last Alabama sturgeon was found in the wild in April 2007. It was one of only two specimens of the species found in the last nine years, both in the Alabama River.

The one found last year was tagged with a sonic tracker.

"Alabama Conservation Resources is still following it around, so we know it's still alive," said Bernie Kuhajda, a fish biologist with the University of Alabama's Biological Sciences Division who has been studying the Alabama sturgeon for the last 15 years.

The Alabama sturgeon is one of the rarest invertebrates in North America, Kuhajda added. The fish has existed for around 75 million years.

But the species was hurt by construction of dams on Alabama Rivers.

"It's so rare because of the dams," Kuhajda said. "They stopped the migration of the sturgeon upstream and impaired the development of the larval sturgeons."

Kuhajda hopes that by being listed as one of the "desperate dozen," it might spur efforts to save the fish.