2001-2002 State of Florida Sturgeon Aquaculture and Conservation Research

These brief summaries detail the state of Florida sturgeon aquaculture and conservation research for 2001-2002.

Sturgeon Marine Forensics Testing
This project continues an on-going program to refine forensic techniques to identify commercial sturgeon products and provide rapid and accurate evidence that will survive legal challenges of poaching wild sturgeon stock. The goal of the project is to establish the mechanisms and techniques to differentiate farm-raised sturgeon from wild sturgeon, and to distinguish different species of sturgeon. This research program has identified a practicable forensics technique using fatty acid profiles to definitively identify fish reared on artificial diets. This technique will deter marketing of illegal sturgeon products and enable law enforcement officers to successfully prosecute violations of the Endangered Species Act as well as international laws. The research will be expanded to sample additional species that are grown in Florida, and will form the basis for additional forensic research to differentiate various species of sturgeon. Sturgeon species utilized include gulf, Atlantic, shortnose, white and other sturgeon species.
Principal Investigator: Karen Metcalf $25,000
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Aquaculture

Movements, Habitat Preferences, Growth Rates, and Survival of Hatchery-Reared Sub-Adult Gulf of Mexico Sturgeon in Two Reaches of Hillsborough River, Florida
This research is a continuation of a pilot study, which began in November 2000 to provide information regarding survival, growth, health, real-time movement, habitat preferences, and preferred environmental conditions of hatchery-reared gulf sturgeon released in the tidal and freshwater reaches of the Hillsborough River. Information will also be provided on the suitability of the river for supporting sub-adult gulf sturgeon. The data collected will provide FWC and other resource management agencies with necessary information for implementing effective threatened species management measures, and allow conservation decisions to be made on the use of hatchery-reared stock.
Principal Investigators: Carole Neidig and Ken Leber $33,000
Mote Marine Laboratory, Center for Fisheries Enhancement

Identification of Gulf Sturgeon Spawning Habitats in the Yellow and Escambia Rivers
This project is a continuation from the previous year to determine riverine migration patterns and spawning sites of gulf sturgeon in the Yellow and Escambia Rivers so habitat can be identified and protected. Information obtained from the marine component of the study will be used to establish overwintering requirements based on habitat use. Sturgeon will be tracked using ultrasonic equipment in the Pensacola Bay estuarine system to further observe winter migration patterns.
Principal Investigator: Nadine Craft $23,680.65
Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Northwest Florida Aquatic Preserves

A Petition to Delist a distinct Vertebrate Population Segment of the Shortnose Sturgeon, Acipenser brevirostrum, for Commercial Culture and Sale in Florida
The objective of this contract is to develop a petition to the United States Department of Commerce to delist a distinct vertebrate population segment of the shortnose sturgeon (domesticated broodstock currently maintained in federal and state propagation facilities) for the purposes of commercial production and sale in Florida. Benefits of the accepted petition to delist shortnose sturgeon for commercial culture would be facilitation of more rural jobs and economic growth, useful information for the conservation and restoration of native sturgeon, and profitable trade in high value, high demand products.
Principal Investigator: R. Sherman Wilhelm $14,967.20
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Aquaculture

Acquisition of Non-Native Sturgeon for Development of Rearing Methods
The goal of this project is to establish the mechanisms and protocol for acquisition of non-native sturgeon on international markets to help develop the commercial aquaculture industry. The goals are two-part, in that the Department will establish contact with international brokers to confirm mechanisms for export, import, health certification and other required documentation, and that the Division will be able to acquire eggs and/or sac fry for potential sturgeon aquaculture species.
Principal Investigator: Kal Knickerbocker $20,000
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Aquaculture

Determination of Gulf Sturgeon Offshore, Winter Feeding, Critical Habitat Using Satellite Pop-Up Archival Tagging and Sonic Tagging
This project will aid determination of the migration patterns and winter marine habitat of gulf sturgeon using satellite archival tags. During the course of sonic tracking, researchers will characterize and map those sites physically and ecologically by determining bathymetry, temperature, sediments and potential food source organisms. The overall objective will be to locate and characterize gulf sturgeon marine habitats in such ways that potential critical marine habitat can be identified and mapped throughout the range of the gulf sturgeon.
Principal Investigator: Randy Edwards $39,979.00
University of South Florida, College of Marine Science United States Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division

Critical Winter Feeding Areas of Threatened Gulf of Mexico Sturgeon in the Suwannee Estuary and Blackwater Bay, Florida
This projects overall goal is to determine if gulf sturgeon reside and forage for a period of time in the near-shore areas of the Suwannee River estuary and Blackwater Bay during the winter months, prior to, and after, their freshwater migration.
Principal Investigators: Debra J. Murie and Daryl C. Parkyn
*University of Florida, Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences

Assessment of the Effectiveness of Florida Aquaculture Best Management Practices (BMP's) for Sturgeon
The objective of this project will be to assess location, farm design, biosecurity features, water treatment, and similar BMP requirements to minimize direct environmental impacts, and to assess the overall effectiveness of sturgeon Florida aquaculture best management practices. A written evaluation/risk assessment of the application and effectiveness of the BMP's will be prepared for each facility and for sturgeon aquaculture in general. This information will benefit both sturgeon farmers and regulatory agencies.
Principal Investigators: Charles E. Cichra and Daniel E. Canfield
*University of Florida, Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences

Technology for the Aquaculture and Conservation of Sturgeon in Florida
This project will continue to monitor, tag and sample sturgeon population in the Suwannee River; provide logistical and technical support to continuing and new projects involved in the conservation and aquaculture of sturgeon in Florida. The project will also develop rearing methods and generate information on the major production factors necessary to purchase and raise Atlantic and one other non-restricted species of sturgeon larvae/juveniles with the goal of producing a market sized fish.
Principal Investigators: Frank A. Chapman and Douglas E. Colle
*University of Florida, Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences

*Total award for 3 University of Florida projects $173,255.00

FWC Facts:
The organism that causes red tide in Florida, Karenia brevis, owes its name to a state researcher of harmful algal blooms, Dr. Karen Steidinger.

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