Term of Award

Winter 2002

Degree Name

Master of Biology

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Stephen P. Vives

Committee Member 1

Bruce A. Schulte

Committee Member 2

C. Ray Chandler

Abstract

Shortnose sturgeon, Acipenser brevirostrum, were monitored as part of continuing studies in the Ogeechee and Canoochee Rivers adjacent to Fort Stewart, Georgia during 1999 and 2000. Over 13,000 net-meter-hours soak time and 1,700 person hours of effort were expended. The shortnose sturgeon population was estimated at approximately 195 individuals (95% CI = 143 to 306). Depressed young-of-year recruitment, rather than mortality, appears to limit the population. Shortnose sturgeon were fully recruited to sampling regimes, used in this and previous studies, at approximately age 8-9, and additional efforts should be made to characterize the younger segment of the population. Immigrated cultured shortnose sturgeon that were released into the Savannah River contributed substantially to year classes 8, 9, and 11. Age determination was validated though the capture of cultured fish. Because the shortnose sturgeon population size has remained statistically unchanged since 1993, immediate efforts should be made to identify factors limiting young-of-year recruitment, and population trends should be closely monitored. Spawning areas were not identified, but seasonal and short-term movement patterns of the shortnose sturgeon were analyzed in relation to environmental factors. Juvenile (ages 1 through 9) Atlantic sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus, were captured incidentally during sampling, and their populations were estimated at 134 and 186 during 1999 and 2000.

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