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CONFERENCE SCHEDULE UPDATES & CHANGES: As a result of the prolonged government shutdown, we experienced a number of cancellations and changes to the schedule. Cancellations and changes are listed here (as of January 26, 2019). 
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Tuesday, January 29 • 4:40pm - 5:00pm
(FISHERIES: BIG RIVERS) Long-term Shovelnose Sturgeon Recapture and Population Data and Implications for Management Actions

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AUTHORS: Craig Jansen, Indiana Department of Natural Resources

ABSTRACT: The Wabash River sustains one of the few remaining commercial fisheries for Shovelnose Sturgeon (SNSG). Since a statewide minimum length limit (25 inches eye-to-fork) was implemented in 2007, there have been concerns that regulations are not offering sufficient protection for the population, specifically mature females. SNSG have been sampled throughout the Wabash River from 2005 to 2018. General demographic data was collected from all fish (length, weight, pectoral fin ray) and sex was identified if possible. All fish were tagged with a unique Floy tag. Linear regressions were used to identify trends in annual mean length of the entire sampled population and confirmed mature females. Average length of SNSG exhibited a general decreasing trend, peaking at 27.1 inches in 2007 and decreasing to 25.5 by 2017. The mean size of confirmed females decreased more dramatically from 28.4 inches in 2009 to 25.9 inches in 2018. Days at-large was calculated for recaptured fish, and individuals were grouped based on size at original tagging. Recaptured fish exhibited a strong homing behavior as most were captured less than 5 miles from the original tagging site. Several SNSG have been recaptured 10 to 13 years after tagging and exhibit little to no growth. Once maturity is reached growth becomes negligible, and individual fish do not follow a typical population growth curve. Results suggest regulations have allowed overharvest, and more specifically, the removal of fast-growing and large females from the population. Based on the unique life-history and lucrative market value of SNSG, traditional fisheries management tools, such as minimum length limits, may not adequately protect the population from overharvest. More restrictive regulations are needed to ensure the Wabash River SNSG do not collapse like other sturgeon populations throughout the world.

Tuesday January 29, 2019 4:40pm - 5:00pm EST