Bubba, last known Alabama sturgeon, dies in captivity
News staff writer
MONTGOMERY The last known Alabama sturgeon died last month after years
of captivity at a state fish hatchery in Marion, but wildlife officials
still hope to find and breed more of the endangered fish.
It's not a good thing," Larry Goldman, head of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service's Alabama field office in Daphne, said Monday. He said
no one knows why the male fish, nicknamed Bubba, died. It may have died
of old age, he said.
But Goldman said federal and state officials believe other Alabama
sturgeon still live in the Alabama River, especially near the Claiborne
Lock and Dam west of Monroeville, and in the lower Cahaba River.
They still hope to find and catch more of the endangered fish to use
them and some of Bubba's frozen sperm to start a breeding program, he
"We're going to keep trying to catch more sturgeon. We've been working
hard on that without success," Goldman said. "We need to catch some
females for sure, and some more males."
A century ago, Alabamians caught tens of thousands of the
primitive-looking fish. The fish have pointed snouts, are brown-orange
in color and have what look like plates on their upper backs instead of
A mature Alabama sturgeon can weigh 2 to 3 three pounds and measure 18
to 30 inches long.
A sharp drop in the Alabama sturgeon population started by the 1980s.
Goldman suspects dams built on the Alabama River may interfere with its
spawning, and said pollution likely has harmed the fish, too.
Fewer than 10 Alabama sturgeon are known to have been caught in the past
Federal officials placed the fish on the endangered species list in May
2000, despite years of fierce opposition from politicians and industry
leaders who said the listing could disrupt river dredging and barge
traffic. The listing makes it illegal to harm the rare fish.
Two male Alabama sturgeon kept at the hatchery in Marion were still
alive in May 2000. Just one, Bubba, was alive at the hatchery by July
No one has seen an Alabama sturgeon in the wild in more than two years,
since a commercial fisherman videotaped his catch before releasing it
back into the Cahaba River.
But that video leaves Goldman hoping there still are more Alabama
sturgeon out there, and he's asking anyone who catches a fish that looks
like one to keep it alive, hold it and call him.
"We will take any Alabama sturgeon we can find, whether it's male or
female, in hopes of having young sturgeon to put back in the river," he
"That's the objective, to get the fish back to a level where it could
sustain some kind of harvest," Goldman said. "It's not looking real good
He said restoring the Alabama sturgeon population also has a broader
"Environmentally, it's important because it's part of the aquatic system
of Alabama, just like all the other species," Goldman said. "We don't
need to be tearing up the ecosystem."
Goldman may be reached at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Alabama
field office in Daphne, 251-441-5181.
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