Populations of six sturgeon species in the Danube River (beluga, Russian sturgeon, stellate sturgeon, sterlet, ship sturgeon and Atlantic sturgeon) have experienced severe decline during the last several decades, mostly due to the unsustainable fishery, river fragmentation and water pollution. Present lack of knowledge on basic sturgeon demography, life history and relative effects of different negative factors is further hindering implementation of efficient policy and management measures. In the present study, population viability analysis in a Vortex simulation model has been conducted in order to assess the state of the six Danube sturgeon species, their future risk of extinction and to determine the most suitable conservation and management measures. Population viability analysis has revealed a large sensitivity of the Danube sturgeon populations to changes in the natural mortality, fecundity, age at maturity and spawning frequency. It was also confirmed that the sturgeons are highly susceptible to even moderate levels of commercial fishery, and that their recovery is a multi-decadal affair. Stocking with adult individuals was shown to produce considerably greater effect on population persistence than stocking with juveniles, but the latter approach is probably still preferable since it avoids many inherent problems of aquaculture cultivation. This study represents the first population viability analysis of the Danube sturgeons.
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 19, 2009
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