In early May, biologists at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery had an opportunity that many fisheries people never get. They spawned an endangered species.


In early May, biologists at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery had an opportunity that many fisheries people never get. They spawned an endangered species.

Fish hatchery manager Dave Hendrix and assistant manager Rod May spawned a pallid sturgeon, an ancient fish which lives primarily in the Missouri and lower Mississippi River basins. The pallid sturgeon is a relic of the dinosaur era that has lived in pre-historic rivers for about 70 million years.
Pallid sturgeon can grow to be very large fish, up to eighty-five pounds at maturity, and they can live to be 100 years old. But their numbers began decreasing about 20 years ago.

The pallid sturgeon is considered to be a good tasting fish, and the female's eggs have been too often sold and eaten as caviar.

Changing habitat, over fishing, and harvesting females for caviar have lowered the populations, putting the pallid sturgeon on the endangered species list. The Neosho National Fish Hatchery and eleven other state and federal hatcheries are working to save this ancient fish from extinction.
This year, a female pallid from the Missouri River was spawned at the local hatchery. Spawning this ancient fish is not a simple matter.

First, wild fish must be caught in the Missouri River. Then each fish must be checked to see if it is genetically a pallid sturgeon, as they will cross breed with other sturgeon. Then the females must be checked to see if they will produce eggs this season. They usually only have mature eggs every other year.

Then a mature male has to be located.

After all the tests and careful observation were made, the male and female at Neosho were determined to be ready for spawning. The male is caught and a sample of sperm removed. Scientific work with the female is much more complicated.

The general process is to take the eggs from the female and then blend in sperm from the male to fertilize the eggs. Taking eggs from the female is time consuming as handlers "milk" her every hour until all the eggs are taken.

Blending the eggs and sperm is done in a container and, at the Neosho hatchery, the blending is done with a turkey feather. This is an old method that is still popular with fisheries experts. There are other more modern ways to blend the eggs and sperm, but Hendrix and May are comfortable with the old turkey feather method.

Eventually the eggs are placed in a hatching jar and then it's just a matter of waiting for the hatch.
The spawning was deemed a success. The last of the eggs were extracted about 4 p.m., and the following day, the nucleus had already divided, meaning the fertilization had been successful. Now, the two "expectant fathers," Dave Hendrix and Rod May, are just waiting for the babies.
Much time is required in the process of spawning pallid sturgeon. This work is being done at several hatcheries, all in an effort to save an endangered species—the ancient pallid sturgeon.

Preserving endangered species is a high priority in America because the old native species of plants, animals and fish are barometers of our natural resources. The introduction of non-native species into our fields and streams has often led to disaster. Millions of dollars and millions of man hours are spent each year to get rid of invasive species that have come to America and caused damage and destruction.

Native plants and animals are better for the nation, and efforts to preserve them are worth all the time and trouble it takes to prevent their extinction and have them still around in the future.