Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 167–181 | Cite as

Ecology and biology of paddlefish in North America: historical perspectives, management approaches, and research priorities

Abstract

Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula, Polyodontidae)are large, mostly-riverine fish that once wereabundant in medium- to large-sized river systemsthroughout much of the central United States. Concernfor paddlefish populations has grown from a regionalfisheries issue to one of national importance for theUnited States. In 1989, the U.S. Fish and WildlifeService (USFWS) was petitioned to list paddlefish asa federally threatened species under the EndangeredSpecies Act. The petition was not granted, primarilybecause of a lack of empirical data on paddlefishpopulation size, age structure, growth, or harvestrates across the present 22-state range. Nonetheless,concern for paddlefish populations prompted the USFWSto recommend that paddlefish be protected through theConvention on International Trade in EndangeredSpecies of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The additionof paddlefish to Appendix II of CITES, which wasapproved in March 1992, provides a mechanism tocurtail illegal trade in paddlefish and their partsand supports a variety of conservation plans. Paddlefish populations have been negatively affectedby overharvest, river modifications, and pollution,but the paddlefish still occupies much of its historicrange and most extant populations seem to be stable. Although many facets of paddlefish biology andecology are well understood, the lack of informationon larval and juvenile ecology, mechanisms thatdetermine recruitment, population size and vitalrates, interjurisdictional movements, and the effectsof anthropogenic activities present significantobstacles for managing paddlefish populations. Questions about the size and structure of localpopulations, and how such populations are affected bynavigation traffic, dams, and pollution are regardedas medium priority areas for future research. Theavailability of suitable spawning habitat and overallreproductive success in impounded rivers are unknownand represent critical areas for future research. Research on reproductive and recruitment success inimpounded rivers have significant implications formanaging paddlefish, as rivers are modified furtherfor human use.

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Geological SurveyUpper Midwest Environmental Sciences CenterLa CrosseUSA;
  2. 2.Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Warnell School of Forest ResourcesThe University of GeorgiaAthens, GAUSA

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