Management of declining fisheries of anadromous species sometimes relies heavily on supplementation of populations with captive breeding, despite evidence that captive breeding can have negative consequences and may not address the root cause of decline. The beluga sturgeon (Huso huso), a species threatened by the market for black caviar and reductions in habitat quality, is managed through harvest control and hatchery supplementation, with an emphasis on the latter. We used yield per recruit and elasticity analyses to evaluate the population status and current levels of fishing and to identify the life-history stages that are the best targets for conservation of beluga of the Ural River. Harvest rates in recent years were four to five times higher than rates that would sustain population abundance. Sustainable rates of fishing mortality are similar to those for other long-lived marine species such as sharks and mammals. Yield per recruit, which is maximized if fish are first harvested at age 31 years, would be greatly enhanced by raising minimum size limits or reducing illegal take of subadults. Improving the survival of subadult and adult females would increase population productivity by 10 times that achieved by improving fecundity and survival from egg to age 1 year (i.e., hatchery supplementation). These results suggest that reducing mortality of subadults and adult wild fish is a more effective conservation strategy than hatchery supplementation. Because genetics is not factored into hatchery management practices, supplementation may even reduce the viability of the beluga sturgeon.
- Caspian Sea
- Reference points
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics