There’s not a lot of daylight between “rare” and “extinct” but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to widen the gap with its recovery plan for the Alabama sturgeon. Considered one of the nation’s rarest fish, the lumbering bottom skimmer earned a spot on the federal Endangered Species list in May 2000 after decades of over-fishing, habitat loss, and water quality degradation weighed a heavy toll on this ancient fish found only in the Mobile River Basin.

Historically, the Alabama sturgeon inhabited all of the basin’s major rivers below the Fall Line, including the Alabama, Tombigbee, and Cahaba River systems. Recent collections are restricted to the waters of the lower Alabama River below R.F. Henry Lock and Dam to the confluence of the Tombigbee River and in the lower Cahaba River near its confluence with the Alabama River.

Sturgeon records are extremely rare and nobody has actually caught one on the record since April 3, 2007. On the upside, a recovery plan developed by the USFWS in partnership with the DCNR, other state agencies and universities could shift that probability.

With the goal of eventually eliminating the need for Endangered Species Act protection, the Alabama Sturgeon Recovery Plan will raise little sturgeons through a captive broodstock, introduce them into areas currently known to hold their kin and improve their habitat with operational changes at Claiborne and Millers Ferry Lock and Dams.

Cindy Dohner, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director, commented: “Monitoring and protecting sturgeon habitat in the Alabama River and its tributaries are among the recommendations in the Alabama Sturgeon Recovery Plan, which will hopefully help bring the sturgeon back from the brink.”

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