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Shovelnose Sturgeon - Environment

Preservation of habitat is the single most important factor in maintaining conditions for the survival of the shovelnose sturgeon. Populations of shovelnose sturgeon are undoubtedly much lower now than they were when the Mississippi River was a natural, unimpounded water course. The decline was undoubtedly a direct result of habitat destruction. Manipulation of the river to enhance navigation (including construction of 4-, 6-, and 9-ft channels) and establishment of impoundments have constricted shovelnose sturgeon habitat to small areas immediately downstream from navigation dams.

Changes in habitat have seriously reduced the capacity of our waters to produce these fish. Dams prevent the fish from traveling to their spawning grounds, and the change in water flow brought about by hydroelectric power plants may reduce the number of bottom organisms shovelnose sturgeon feed on and interfere with the hatching of sturgeon eggs. Like many fish, sturgeon require stable, moderate levels of oxygen to survive. Polluted waters have less available oxygen; in winter and midsummer, these oxygen levels may drop too low, resulting in death for the shovelnose sturgeon and other species.

Sturgeon that live in polluted waters may accumulate some pollutants in their tissues at high concentrations in part because they are long-lived but also because they can have high levels of fat. Wisconsin's statewide fish consumption advisory recommends that women of childbearing years and children not eat sturgeon more frequently than one meal per month and men and older women not eat sturgeon more frequently than one meal per week.

Contact information
For more information, please contact:
Karl Scheidegger
Fisheries biologist
Last revised: Friday August 31 2012