One Spawning Ground Left: Rare Green Sturgeon to Get Needed Recovery Plan

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 845-6703

One Spawning Ground Left: Rare Green Sturgeon to Get Needed Recovery Plan

SAN FRANCISCO - The National Marine Fisheries Service announced that it
will develop a recovery plan for threatened green sturgeon. The notice
will appear in Thursday's Federal Register. A recovery plan is a
legally mandated roadmap to how an endangered animal or plant species
can be brought back from the brink and eventually be secure enough from
the risk of extinction to be removed from the endangered species list.

Loss
of suitable spawning habitat is a major threat to green sturgeon; the
southern green sturgeon population only spawns in the Sacramento River
system below Shasta Dam, making it especially susceptible to habitat
destruction. In October, as the result of a settlement that arose from
a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, the Service protected 8.6
million acres of critical habitat for the southern population of green
sturgeon in California, Oregon, and Washington. Including river
habitat, estuary, and coastal habitat, that includes the Sacramento
River, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and coastal areas from Monterey
Bay to Cape Flattery, Washington.

"Recovery
planning and habitat protection are the keys to bringing this rare and
majestic fish back from the brink of extinction," said Miyoko
Sakashita, oceans director at the Center. "Recent surveys have shown
some of the lowest recorded numbers of spawning green sturgeon in the
Sacramento River. With so few sturgeon left, recovery planning is
essential to help green sturgeon regain some lost ground."

The
Endangered Species Act requires recovery planning and critical habitat
for species that are listed as threatened or endangered. In response to
a 2001 listing petition and a subsequent lawsuit by the Center for
Biological Diversity, the Fisheries Service in 2006 listed the southern
green sturgeon population - fish in the San Francisco Bay and Delta
that spawn in the Sacramento River basin, but migrate along much of the
West Coast from Mexico to Canada - as a threatened species under the
Endangered Species Act. Subsequent pressure from the Center pushed the
agency to designate habitat.

Recent
studies have shown that species with critical habitat and recovery
plans are much more likely to recover than species without. The
recovery plan for green sturgeon will provide a blueprint for actions
that will promote recovery and identify goals for its conservation. The
National Marine Fisheries Service is soliciting information and
comments for the development of the green sturgeon's recovery plan.

Green Sturgeon Background

The green sturgeon, Acipenser medirostris,
is one of the most ancient fish species in the world, remaining
unchanged in appearance since it first emerged 200 million years ago.
Green sturgeon are among the largest and longest-living fish species
found in freshwater, living up to 70 years, reaching 7.5 feet in
length, and weighing up to 350 pounds. Sturgeon have a prehistoric
appearance, with a skeleton consisting of mostly cartilage and rows of
bony plates for scales. They have snouts like shovels and mouths like
vacuum cleaners that are used to siphon shrimp and other food from
sandy depths.

Like salmon, sturgeon are
anadromous, migrating to the ocean and returning to freshwater to
spawn. Only three known spawning grounds remain, in the Sacramento and
Klamath rivers in California and the Rogue River in Oregon. Between
four and seven spawning populations have already been eliminated in
California and Oregon. The estimated abundance of green sturgeon in the
Sacramento River plummeted by 95 percent between 2001 and 2006. Severe
declines in both green and white sturgeon come as scientists have
documented the collapse of other fish species in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta, such as delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail,
threadfin shad, and striped bass, due to the combined effects of Delta
water diversions and exports, pesticides and pollution, and impacts of
introduced species on the Delta's planktonic food web. Copepods that
sustain the Delta food chain and are a food source for green sturgeon
have fallen to the lowest levels ever recorded.

For more information about the green sturgeon, visit:
www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/fish/North_American_green_sturgeon/index.html

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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