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Experimental Sturgeon Genetics

This proposal outlines a project from the Fish & Wildlife Program Accords that addresses the use of genetic markers to evaluate population structure of white sturgeon in the lower Columbia River and upstream of Bonneville Dam. The specific objectives are to 1) evaluate population differentiation and migration (gene flow) among reservoirs, 2) determine relatedness, mean productivity, and number of spawners within each reservoir, and 3) characterize broodstock including identifying origins (reservoir or population) and degree of relatedness among candidate broodstock fish for use in a potential restoration and enhancement facility. These three objectives address needs for determining genetic diversity, relative broodstock abundance, distribution and movement, and supplementation efforts.

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Location

Mainstem Columbia from John Day Dam to Priest Rapids Dam
Mainstem reservoirs upstream of Bonneville Dam to Priest Rapids and Ice Harbor dams

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Funding Sources

Columbia Basin Fish Accords

  • 2009 Budget $40,000
  • Total 10-year Budget $398,181
  • Project # 2008-504-00
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Affected Fish Species

  • Sturgeon
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Tribes Involved

Tribes Involved
Yakama

Other Collaborators
ODFW, WDFW

Project Goal

To gain greater understanding of white sturgeon genetics in preparation for proposed supplementation activities.

Impacts

A better understanding of sturgeon population structure for use in fishery and hatchery management decisions.

Background

Sturgeon TaggingThis proposal outlines a project from the Fish & Wildlife Program Accords that addresses the use of genetic markers to evaluate population structure of white sturgeon in the lower Columbia River and upstream of Bonneville Dam. The specific objectives are to 1) evaluate population differentiation and migration (gene flow) among reservoirs, 2) determine relatedness, mean productivity, and number of spawners within each reservoir, and 3) characterize broodstock including identifying origins (reservoir or population) and degree of relatedness among candidate broodstock fish for use in a potential restoration and enhancement facility. These three objectives address needs for determining genetic diversity, relative broodstock abundance, distribution and movement, and supplementation efforts.

Project Tasks

  1. Standardize results of fragment analysis and genotype scoring.
  2. Prepare field data for statistical analysis.
  3. Manage standardized genotypes for long-term use and collaboration.
  4. Temporal replicate or stratified data will be added annually to the existing database for use in conducting multi-generational pedigree analyses.
  5. Make compiled genotypic data including allele frequencies available in annual reports and publications.
  6. Analyze and interpret the data.

Survival of the Fittest

A virus outbreak that killed nearly 30,000 sturgeon at a federal research hatchery this year has spawned an intensive study into how the fish resists the deadly infection.

CRITFC biologists and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are looking into how a small group of yearlings—representing only 1 percent of the original population—survived the outbreak of white sturgeon iridovirus (WSIV) between October 2001 and March 2002. The outbreak occurred at the Abernathy Fish Technology Center in Longview, Wash. It is one of seven research centers nationwide that are operated by the Fish & Wildlife Service to provide technology and scientific information to fish hatcheries and fishery managers. Read more…

Past and Present Sturgeon Status

From Our Elders

“One time I was fishing for salmon with a net on the Columbia and a big old sturgeon came along and tore the net wide open. He just went right on through that net. That put a stop to the fishing that night.”

Elmer Crow, Sr. Iin Timiip Nisa, Nez Perce

large_sturgeon

White sturgeon populations upstream of Bonneville Dam are reservoir-based populations, with the exception of sturgeon that occupy the Hanford Reach. Sturgeon in Hanford Reach are bounded by Priest Rapids, McNary, and Ice Harbor dams. Tribal subsistence and commercial fisheries currently occur in Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day reservoirs, with harvest guidelines for each reservoir of 1,100, 1,000, and 1,000 sturgeon, respectively. Population abundances (i.e., estimates of all sturgeon greater than two feet in length) are highest in Bonneville reservoir, which has approximately 300,000 sturgeon. The Dalles reservoir population is estimated at 85,000, while the John Day reservoir population is estimated at 42,000. Harvests are currently stable, although fishers will experience some downturns in harvestable numbers over the next decade, particularly in the John Day reservoir. In the longer term, fishers’ catches will vary with river flows as recruitment is positively related to spring flows. Such variation will continue until spring flows are adjusted for sturgeon spawning or more likely until a hatchery program begins releasing sturgeon into reservoirs with poor recruitment.

CRITFC Staff

Andrew Matala

Andrew Matala

Conservation Geneticist

Shawn Narum

Shawn Narum

Lead Geneticist

Blaine Parker

Blaine Parker

Sturgeon Project Lead

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