White sturgeon

Acipenser transmontanus

Acipenser transmontanus (White sturgeon)
Taxonomy
    • Osteichthyes
      • Acipenseriformes
        • Acipenseridae
          • Acipenser transmontanus
Distribution
Distribution map: Acipenser transmontanus (White sturgeon)

Information


Author: João L. Saraiva
Version: 2.0 (2022-01-22)

Cite

Reviewers: Pablo Arechavala-Lopez, Jenny Volstorf
Editor: Billo Heinzpeter Studer

Cite as: »Saraiva, João L.. 2022. Acipenser transmontanus (Farm: Short Profile). In: FishEthoBase, ed. Fish Ethology and Welfare Group. World Wide Web electronic publication. First published 2017-12-08. Version 2.0. https://fishethobase.net.«





FishEthoScore/farm

Acipenser transmontanus
LiPoCe
Criteria
Home range
Depth range
Migration
Reproduction
Aggregation
Aggression
Substrate
Stress
Malformations
Slaughter


Condensed assessment of the species' likelihood and potential for good fish welfare in aquaculture, based on ethological findings for 10 crucial criteria.

Li = Likelihood that the individuals of the species experience good welfare under minimal farming conditions
Po = Potential of the individuals of the species to experience good welfare under high-standard farming conditions
Ce = Certainty of our findings in Likelihood and Potential

FishEthoScore = Sum of criteria scoring "High" (max. 10)

Legend

High
Medium
Low
Unclear
No findings



General remarks

Acipenser transmontanus is a long-lived and late-maturing species found on the Pacific coast of North America. It is the largest freshwater fish in its distribution range. Although mostly anadromous, there are some non-migrating populations. Once very abundant, it was overfished almost until extinction in the early 20th century, and only through severe fishing restrictions that are still applied its populations were allowed to recover. Farming started in the late 20th century, and although there is a fair amount of research on this species, there are still considerable knowledge gaps and sub-optimal practices that influence its welfare in farming. Namely, behaviour in the wild lacks studies, spatial needs are not met, reproduction is highly manipulated and invasive, substrate requirements are mostly absent, and an effective protocol for stunning and slaughtering is not established. Further effort to provide a more natural environment in farming conditions, natural spawning, and humane stunning and slaughtering should result in improved welfare.




1  Home range

Many species traverse in a limited horizontal space (even if just for a certain period of time per year); the home range may be described as a species' understanding of its environment (i.e., its cognitive map) for the most important resources it needs access to. What is the probability of providing the species' whole home range in captivity?

It is low for minimal and high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a high amount of evidence.

Likelihood
Potential
Certainty

LARVAE: WILD: move downstream 1. FARM: circular tanks: 1.2 m diameter 2; rectangular tanks: 0.9 m2 (0.6 x 1.5 m) 2; square tanks: 3.2 m2 2. For sturgeons in general, rearing tanks or trays: 2-4 m2 3. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to A. transmontanus as well. LAB: drift downstream ca 3,500-5,300 m on first day post-hatch 4.

JUVENILES: WILD: 0-12,000 m/week 5, up to ca 2,000 m/day 6. FARM: square and rectangular tanks: 4-36 m2 7; raceways: 24.4 x 2.4 m 8. For sturgeons in general, ponds: 1-4 ha 3; cages: 20-100 m2 (15-20 m2 for overwintering) 3. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to A. transmontanus as well. LAB: may move downstream up to ca 27,300 m/day 4.

ADULTS: WILD: suggested not to have long distance movements outside migration 9 10. FARM JUVENILES.

SPAWNERS: WILD: 4,000-7,000 m 11. FARM: acclimation tanks: ca 9 m2 2; circular maturation tanks: 6.1 m diameter 2; spawning tanks: 1.3 m2 (2.1 x 0.6 m) 2. For sturgeons in general, pre-spawn holding in "Kazansky" type earthen ponds: 120-130 m 3 or "Kurinsky" type earthen ponds: 30-60 x 12 m 3; long-term holding in concrete tanks: 30-50 m2 3 or cages: 20-100 m2 3; overwintering of breeders in plastic and concrete tanks: >40 m3 3 or "Kurinsky" type concrete ponds: 105 x 17 m or 1,000-4,000 ha separated into different compartments 3. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to A. transmontanus as well.




2  Depth range

Given the availability of resources (food, shelter) or the need to avoid predators, species spend their time within a certain depth range. What is the probability of providing the species' whole depth range in captivity?

It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.

Likelihood
Potential
Certainty

LARVAE: WILD: 4-29 m 11. FARM: circular tanks: 0.3 cm 2; square and rectangular tanks: 0.4 m 2. For sturgeons in general, rearing tanks or trays: 0.2 m 3. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to A. transmontanus as well.

JUVENILES: WILD: 1-122 m 12, mostly 10-30 m 13. FARM: tanks: 1 m 7; raceways: 0.8 m 8. For sturgeons in general, ponds: 2.3-2.5 m 3; cages: 2.5-3.5 m 3. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to A. transmontanus as well.

ADULTS: WILD: 1-122 m 12. FARM: JUVENILES.

SPAWNERS: WILD: 3-23 m 11. FARM: acclimation tanks: 0.9 cm 2; maturation and spawning tanks: 0.6 m 2. For sturgeons in general, pre-spawn holding in "Kazansky" type earthen ponds: 0.5-2.5 m 3 or "Kurinsky" type earthen ponds: 1.5-2.5 m 3; long-term holding in concrete tanks: 2 m 3 or cages: 3-3.5 m 3; overwintering of breeders in plastic and concrete tanks: >1.5 m 3. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to A. transmontanus as well.




3  Migration

Some species undergo seasonal changes of environments for different purposes (feeding, spawning, etc.) and with them, environmental parameters (photoperiod, temperature, salinity) may change, too. What is the probability of providing farming conditions that are compatible with the migrating or habitat-changing behaviour of the species?

It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.

Likelihood
Potential
Certainty

Some populations ANADROMOUS, others remain in fresh water 2.

LARVAE: WILD: migrate downstream near the bottom over a wide range of substrate types, water depths, and bottom velocities 14 15 11. FARM: reared in fresh water 2. For details of holding systems ➝ crit. 1 and 2.

JUVENILES: WILD: migrate up to 150 km up- or downstream rivers 16 5 13. FARM: reared in fresh water 7 8. Stressed by temperature >19 ºC 17 1. For details of holding systems ➝ crit. 1 and 2.

ADULTS: WILD: may reach >1,000 km in the ocean 9 10, less if river populations 12. FARM: JUVENILES.

SPAWNERS: WILD: migrate upstream from the sea or from lower parts of rivers 12 18 19, triggered by PHOTOPERIOD, river flow, and temperature 1. FARM: maintained in fresh water 2 20. For details of holding systems ➝ crit. 1 and 2.




4  Reproduction

A species reproduces at a certain age, season, and sex ratio and possibly involving courtship rituals. What is the probability of the species reproducing naturally in captivity without manipulation?

It is low for minimal and high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.

Likelihood
Potential
Certainty

WILD: males mature at 9-22, females at 11-34 years old 2. Upstream migration in winter/spring 11 1. For spawning substrate  crit. 7. FARM: males mature at 4, females at 8 years old 21. Gonadal cycles are annual in males and biannual in females 21. Maturation stage of males and females is determined surgically 2. Hormonal induction of ovulation and spermiation 2 21. Females spontaneously release eggs after hormone injections, males need to be emerged, and milt is extracted directly through the genital opening with a syringe 2Modern techniques are less invasive and include ultrasound for sexing and assessing maturity, as well as manual stripping, all under anaesthesia 20.




5  Aggregation

Species differ in the way they co-exist with conspecifics or other species from being solitary to aggregating unstructured, casually roaming in shoals or closely coordinating in schools of varying densities. What is the probability of providing farming conditions that are compatible with the aggregation behaviour of the species?

There are unclear findings for minimal farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a low amount of evidence.

Likelihood
Potential
Certainty

LARVAE: WILD: no data found yet. FARM: 15-20 IND/L 2. LAB: aggregate 4.

JUVENILES: WILD: other Acipenser species are known to aggregate 22. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to A. transmontanus as well. FARM: target densities 24-28 kg/m3 23 7.

ADULTS: WILD: reports of seasonal aggregation in enclosed areas 24. FARM: JUVENILES.

SPAWNERS: WILD: no data found yet. FARM: maturation tanks: 22.5 kg/m3 2; spawning tanks: 30-59 kg/m3 2. High density may affect ovarian development 21.




6  Aggression

There is a range of adverse reactions in species, spanning from being relatively indifferent towards others to defending valuable resources (e.g., food, territory, mates) to actively attacking opponents. What is the probability of the species being non-aggressive and non-territorial in captivity?

There are unclear findings for minimal farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.

Likelihood
Potential
Certainty

LARVAE: FARM: cannibalism in sturgeons is extremely rare 25. LAB: cannibalism solely with lowest food availability 26.

JUVENILES: FARM: no aggression reported in the literature. Other Acipenser species are not aggressive 25. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to A. transmontanus as well.

ADULTS: FARM: no data found yet.

SPAWNERS: FARM: no data found yet.




7  Substrate

Depending on where in the water column the species lives, it differs in interacting with or relying on various substrates for feeding or covering purposes (e.g., plants, rocks and stones, sand and mud). What is the probability of providing the species' substrate and shelter needs in captivity?

It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is high for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.

Likelihood
Potential
Certainty

Eggs: WILD: adhesive to substrate 14 11 15. FARM: chemical or physical processing for de-adhesion, incubated in jars with no substrate 2.

LARVAE: WILD: use rocks for concealment, forage on the substrate 1 4 until 30 days old 4. Avoid sandy substrate, prefer gravel 12-22 mm 27. FARM: no substrate used in tanks 2.

JUVENILES: WILD: feed on benthic items 1. FARM: ponds are able to provide natural substrate and environmental enrichment 20.

ADULTS: JUVENILES.

SPAWNERS: WILD: spawn over cobble, boulder, and bedrock in the river channel 14 11 15. FARM: artificial spawning 2.




8  Stress

Farming involves subjecting the species to diverse procedures (e.g., handling, air exposure, short-term confinement, short-term crowding, transport), sudden parameter changes or repeated disturbances (e.g., husbandry, size-grading). What is the probability of the species not being stressed?

It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a high amount of evidence.

Likelihood
Potential
Certainty

Eggs: no cortisol response to water turbulence 28.

LARVAE: cortisol response to acute stressor (water turbulence) appears at 3 days post-hatching 28.

JUVENILES: stressed by transportation, handling, and decrease in water level 29. For stress and temperature crit. 3.

ADULTS: cortisol response to emersion, crowding, and handling 30.

SPAWNERS: cortisol response to emersion, crowding, and handling (although no effect on GnRH secretion) 30. For stress and stocking density crit. 5.




9  Malformations

Deformities that – in contrast to diseases – are commonly irreversible may indicate sub-optimal rearing conditions (e.g., mechanical stress during hatching and rearing, environmental factors unless mentioned in crit. 3, aquatic pollutants, nutritional deficiencies) or a general incompatibility of the species with being farmed. What is the probability of the species being malformed rarely?

There are unclear findings for minimal and high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a low amount of evidence.

Likelihood
Potential
Certainty

LARVAE: malformations with incubating temperatures >17 ºC 31.

JUVENILES: no data found yet.

ADULTS: no data found yet.




10  Slaughter

The cornerstone for a humane treatment is that slaughter a) immediately follows stunning (i.e., while the individual is unconscious), b) happens according to a clear and reproducible set of instructions verified under farming conditions, and c) avoids pain, suffering, and distress. What is the probability of the species being slaughtered according to a humane slaughter protocol?

It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is high for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a low amount of evidence.

Likelihood
Potential
Certainty

Common slaughter method: for caviar production, females are stunned and slaughtered with a blow to the head 2. High-standard slaughter method: percussive stunning through manual spiking or percussive gun performed by experienced staff, followed by bleeding 32.




11  Side note: Domestication

Teletchea and Fontaine introduced 5 domestication levels illustrating how far species are from having their life cycle closed in captivity without wild input, how long they have been reared in captivity, and whether breeding programmes are in place. What is the species’ domestication level?

DOMESTICATION LEVEL 4 33, level 5 being fully domesticated.




12  Side note: Forage fish in the feed

450-1,000 milliard wild-caught fishes end up being processed into fish meal and fish oil each year which contributes to overfishing and represents enormous suffering. There is a broad range of feeding types within species reared in captivity. To what degree may fish meal and fish oil based on forage fish be replaced by non-forage fishery components (e.g., poultry blood meal) or sustainable sources (e.g., soybean cake)?

All age classes: WILD: omnivorous 34, but mostly carnivorous 35. FARM: fish meal may be partly* replaced, and fish oil may be completely* replaced by non-forage fishery components 36.

*partly = <51% – mostly = 51-99% – completely = 100%




Glossary


LARVAE = hatching to mouth opening, for details Findings 10.1 Ontogenetic development
WILD = setting in the wild
FARM = setting in farm environment
LAB = setting in laboratory environment
JUVENILES = fully developed but immature individuals, for details Findings 10.1 Ontogenetic development
ADULTS = mature individuals, for details Findings 10.1 Ontogenetic development
SPAWNERS = adults that are kept as broodstock
ANADROMOUS = migrating from the sea into fresh water to spawn
PHOTOPERIOD = duration of daylight
IND = individuals
DOMESTICATION LEVEL 4 = entire life cycle closed in captivity without wild inputs 33



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