Illustration of Sturgeon

Sturgeon

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Seafood Variety

Harvest Method

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Ocean Wise Recommended

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Variety

Beluga sturgeon

Huso huso

Method

Farmed

Recirculating aquaculture system (RAS)

Location

US

Overall Rating

7.5 / 10

Summary

Sturgeon are farmed in 35 countries worldwide. The US produced 1350mt in 2012, mostly for caviar, although meat is also marketed. 95% of the sturgeon produced in the US is white sturgeon from California. US farmed sturgeon are farmed in flow-through systems located indoors on land.

Sturgeon have life history characteristics that make them vulnerable to fishing pressure such as their long lifespan and slow time to maturity. Many are currently endangered and have long been targeted due to demand for their meat and caviar. In response to the declining stocks and increasing demand, aquaculture has been an important source of sturgeon, although the industry is still small in the US. Sturgeon aquaculture relieves pressure on wild stocks to satisfy consumer demand. Of some concern is the fact that sturgeon are grown at a net protein loss, as more protein in the form of fishmeal or fish oil must be fed in order to obtain a comparatively smaller amount of edible sturgeon and caviar. About 1.97lbs of fish feed is needed to produce 1lb of sturgeon product.

Flow-through farms typically re-use water several times before treatment and discharge. Recirculating systems treat and cycle their water. Chemicals are rarely used, although the occasional use oxytetracycline is of concern due to its classification as an antibiotic which is highly important to human health by the World Health Organization. Since the sturgeon are reared indoors, there is little risk of predator mortality. Risk of escape and spread of disease is extremely low, since the fish are farmed on land, and discharged water must pass through farmland before reaching natural water bodies. There is also no stress imposed on wild stocks, as fish are sourced from domesticated and farmed broodstock. Although some data such as feed source was unavailable for farmed sturgeon in the US, there was a high degree of transparency regarding most aspects of the aquaculture.

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Ocean Wise

Variety

White sturgeon

Acipenser transmontanus

Method

Farmed

Recirculating aquaculture system (RAS)

Location

US

Overall Rating

7.5 / 10

Summary

Sturgeon are farmed in 35 countries worldwide. The US produced 1350mt in 2012, mostly for caviar, although meat is also marketed. 95% of the sturgeon produced in the US is white sturgeon from California. US farmed sturgeon are farmed in flow-through systems located indoors on land.

Sturgeon have life history characteristics that make them vulnerable to fishing pressure such as their long lifespan and slow time to maturity. Many are currently endangered and have long been targeted due to demand for their meat and caviar. In response to the declining stocks and increasing demand, aquaculture has been an important source of sturgeon, although the industry is still small in the US. Sturgeon aquaculture relieves pressure on wild stocks to satisfy consumer demand. Of some concern is the fact that sturgeon are grown at a net protein loss, as more protein in the form of fishmeal or fish oil must be fed in order to obtain a comparatively smaller amount of edible sturgeon and caviar. About 1.97lbs of fish feed is needed to produce 1lb of sturgeon product.

Flow-through farms typically re-use water several times before treatment and discharge. Recirculating systems treat and cycle their water. Chemicals are rarely used, although the occasional use oxytetracycline is of concern due to its classification as an antibiotic which is highly important to human health by the World Health Organization. Since the sturgeon are reared indoors, there is little risk of predator mortality. Risk of escape and spread of disease is extremely low, since the fish are farmed on land, and discharged water must pass through farmland before reaching natural water bodies. There is also no stress imposed on wild stocks, as fish are sourced from domesticated and farmed broodstock. Although some data such as feed source was unavailable for farmed sturgeon in the US, there was a high degree of transparency regarding most aspects of the aquaculture.

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Ocean Wise

Variety

White sturgeon

Acipenser transmontanus

Method

Farmed

Recirculating aquaculture system (RAS)

Location

Worldwide

Overall Rating

7 / 10

Summary

White sturgeon is currently farmed by only one operation, Target Marine Hatcheries, located in Sechelt, British Columbia. The farm has been raising white sturgeon since 2000 and in 2012, it is estimated that they produced about 17 tonnes of sturgeon meat and 500kg of sturgeon roe. Target Marine Hatcheries is a land-based recirculating aquaculture system (RAS).

There are minimal habitat and ecosystem impacts since the farms are not located on particularly sensitive habitat, chemicals have not been used to date, 90% of the water is recirculated, and waste water is appropriately treated and disposed of. The data on farmed white sturgeon in Canada is restricted to one farm, Target Marine Hatcheries, in British Columbia. Although some data such as feed source was unavailable, there was a high degree of transparency regarding most aspects of the aquaculture.

White sturgeon have life history characteristics that make them vulnerable to fishing pressure such as their long lifespan and slow time to maturity. They are currently an endangered species and have long been targeted due to demand for their meat and caviar. In response to the declining stocks and increasing demand, aquaculture has been an important source of sturgeon, although Target Marine Hatcheries is the only farm found in Canada. The aquaculture of white sturgeon relieves pressure on wild stocks to satisfy consumer demand.

White sturgeon are grown at a net protein loss, as more protein in the form of fishmeal or fish oil sourced from hake and herring must be fed in order to obtain a comparatively smaller amount of edible sturgeon. However, many other aspects of the aquaculture of sturgeon have minimal impacts on other species. Since the white sturgeon are reared indoors, there is little risk of predator mortality. Risk of escape and spread of disease is extremely low, since the fish are farmed on land, and are not connected to other water bodies. There is also no stress imposed on wild stocks, as fish are sourced from domesticated and farmed broodstock.

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Ocean Wise

Variety

Russian sturgeon

Acipenser gueldenstaedtii

Method

Farmed

Recirculating aquaculture system (RAS)

Location

US

Overall Rating

7.5 / 10

Summary

Sturgeon are farmed in 35 countries worldwide. The US produced 1350mt in 2012, mostly for caviar, although meat is also marketed. 95% of the sturgeon produced in the US is white sturgeon from California. US farmed sturgeon are farmed in flow-through systems located indoors on land.

Sturgeon have life history characteristics that make them vulnerable to fishing pressure such as their long lifespan and slow time to maturity. Many are currently endangered and have long been targeted due to demand for their meat and caviar. In response to the declining stocks and increasing demand, aquaculture has been an important source of sturgeon, although the industry is still small in the US. Sturgeon aquaculture relieves pressure on wild stocks to satisfy consumer demand. Of some concern is the fact that sturgeon are grown at a net protein loss, as more protein in the form of fishmeal or fish oil must be fed in order to obtain a comparatively smaller amount of edible sturgeon and caviar. About 1.97lbs of fish feed is needed to produce 1lb of sturgeon product.

Flow-through farms typically re-use water several times before treatment and discharge. Recirculating systems treat and cycle their water. Chemicals are rarely used, although the occasional use oxytetracycline is of concern due to its classification as an antibiotic which is highly important to human health by the World Health Organization. Since the sturgeon are reared indoors, there is little risk of predator mortality. Risk of escape and spread of disease is extremely low, since the fish are farmed on land, and discharged water must pass through farmland before reaching natural water bodies. There is also no stress imposed on wild stocks, as fish are sourced from domesticated and farmed broodstock. Although some data such as feed source was unavailable for farmed sturgeon in the US, there was a high degree of transparency regarding most aspects of the aquaculture.

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Ocean Wise

Variety

Siberian sturgeon

Acipenser baerii

Method

Farmed

Recirculating aquaculture system (RAS)

Location

US

Overall Rating

7.5 / 10

Summary

Sturgeon are farmed in 35 countries worldwide. The US produced 1350mt in 2012, mostly for caviar, although meat is also marketed. 95% of the sturgeon produced in the US is white sturgeon from California. US farmed sturgeon are farmed in flow-through systems located indoors on land.

Sturgeon have life history characteristics that make them vulnerable to fishing pressure such as their long lifespan and slow time to maturity. Many are currently endangered and have long been targeted due to demand for their meat and caviar. In response to the declining stocks and increasing demand, aquaculture has been an important source of sturgeon, although the industry is still small in the US. Sturgeon aquaculture relieves pressure on wild stocks to satisfy consumer demand. Of some concern is the fact that sturgeon are grown at a net protein loss, as more protein in the form of fishmeal or fish oil must be fed in order to obtain a comparatively smaller amount of edible sturgeon and caviar. About 1.97lbs of fish feed is needed to produce 1lb of sturgeon product.

Flow-through farms typically re-use water several times before treatment and discharge. Recirculating systems treat and cycle their water. Chemicals are rarely used, although the occasional use oxytetracycline is of concern due to its classification as an antibiotic which is highly important to human health by the World Health Organization. Since the sturgeon are reared indoors, there is little risk of predator mortality. Risk of escape and spread of disease is extremely low, since the fish are farmed on land, and discharged water must pass through farmland before reaching natural water bodies. There is also no stress imposed on wild stocks, as fish are sourced from domesticated and farmed broodstock. Although some data such as feed source was unavailable for farmed sturgeon in the US, there was a high degree of transparency regarding most aspects of the aquaculture.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Atlantic sturgeon

Acipenser oxyrinchus

Method

Farmed

Recirculating aquaculture system (RAS)

Location

US

Overall Rating

7.5 / 10

Summary

Sturgeon are farmed in 35 countries worldwide. The US produced 1350mt in 2012, mostly for caviar, although meat is also marketed. 95% of the sturgeon produced in the US is white sturgeon from California. US farmed sturgeon are farmed in flow-through systems located indoors on land.

Sturgeon have life history characteristics that make them vulnerable to fishing pressure such as their long lifespan and slow time to maturity. Many are currently endangered and have long been targeted due to demand for their meat and caviar. In response to the declining stocks and increasing demand, aquaculture has been an important source of sturgeon, although the industry is still small in the US. Sturgeon aquaculture relieves pressure on wild stocks to satisfy consumer demand. Of some concern is the fact that sturgeon are grown at a net protein loss, as more protein in the form of fishmeal or fish oil must be fed in order to obtain a comparatively smaller amount of edible sturgeon and caviar. About 1.97lbs of fish feed is needed to produce 1lb of sturgeon product.

Flow-through farms typically re-use water several times before treatment and discharge. Recirculating systems treat and cycle their water. Chemicals are rarely used, although the occasional use oxytetracycline is of concern due to its classification as an antibiotic which is highly important to human health by the World Health Organization. Since the sturgeon are reared indoors, there is little risk of predator mortality. Risk of escape and spread of disease is extremely low, since the fish are farmed on land, and discharged water must pass through farmland before reaching natural water bodies. There is also no stress imposed on wild stocks, as fish are sourced from domesticated and farmed broodstock. Although some data such as feed source was unavailable for farmed sturgeon in the US, there was a high degree of transparency regarding most aspects of the aquaculture.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Sturgeon

Various spp

Method

Farmed

Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS)

Location

Worldwide

Overall Rating

6.7 / 10

Summary

Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) are similar for various farmed species. This recommendation applies to all species grown in RAS except for those where a separate species-specific RAS recommendation is available. Closed containment has recently emerged in the farming industry as an alternative to net pens in order to reduce the environmental impacts of an aquaculture system that is open to the environment.

Source of stock is domesticated broodstock for the vast majority of RAS farms. Therefore wild populations are not depleted to source the aquaculture operations. Impacts of feed use vary amongst RAS farms and the species being cultured.

The contained nature of RAS allows for close control and prevention of potential disease or parasite outbreaks. Risk of pathogens and their transfer to wild populations is low. Predator and wildlife mortalities are virtually eliminated when RAS systems are located indoors, and risk of escapes is low as the systems are not in direct contact with natural water bodies.

About 90-99% of water is typically recirculated after filtration and waste treatment. As such, little to no effluent is discharged to the environment and there is the opportunity to treat waste before discharge. The closed design of RAS and the application of biosecurity protocols reduce the risk of disease and parasites, and consequently require low use of chemicals. When chemicals are used, they cannot flow into the environment directly, and have the opportunity to be treated and sterilized before discharge. RAS farms are typically not built in sensitive habitats, and the closed system of the farms minimizes ecosystem impacts.

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Ocean Wise

Variety

Sterlet

Acipenser ruthenus

Method

Farmed

Recirculating aquaculture system (RAS)

Location

US

Overall Rating

7.5 / 10

Summary

Sturgeon are farmed in 35 countries worldwide. The US produced 1350mt in 2012, mostly for caviar, although meat is also marketed. 95% of the sturgeon produced in the US is white sturgeon from California. US farmed sturgeon are farmed in flow-through systems located indoors on land.

Sturgeon have life history characteristics that make them vulnerable to fishing pressure such as their long lifespan and slow time to maturity. Many are currently endangered and have long been targeted due to demand for their meat and caviar. In response to the declining stocks and increasing demand, aquaculture has been an important source of sturgeon, although the industry is still small in the US. Sturgeon aquaculture relieves pressure on wild stocks to satisfy consumer demand. Of some concern is the fact that sturgeon are grown at a net protein loss, as more protein in the form of fishmeal or fish oil must be fed in order to obtain a comparatively smaller amount of edible sturgeon and caviar. About 1.97lbs of fish feed is needed to produce 1lb of sturgeon product.

Flow-through farms typically re-use water several times before treatment and discharge. Recirculating systems treat and cycle their water. Chemicals are rarely used, although the occasional use oxytetracycline is of concern due to its classification as an antibiotic which is highly important to human health by the World Health Organization. Since the sturgeon are reared indoors, there is little risk of predator mortality. Risk of escape and spread of disease is extremely low, since the fish are farmed on land, and discharged water must pass through farmland before reaching natural water bodies. There is also no stress imposed on wild stocks, as fish are sourced from domesticated and farmed broodstock. Although some data such as feed source was unavailable for farmed sturgeon in the US, there was a high degree of transparency regarding most aspects of the aquaculture.

Learn more about harvest methods

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Ocean Wise

Variety

Atlantic sturgeon

Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus

Method

Wild

Large mesh bottom gillnet

Location

St John River, New Brunswick

Overall Rating

2.8 / 5

Summary

Atlantic sturgeon from the St John River are targeted in a small-scale fishery that takes a maximum of 350 fish annually. Atlantic sturgeon stocks have historically been depleted, but recent evidence indicates that the stock has been increasing and there is no indication that the fishery is having any impact on stock characteristics. Bycatch is minimal, due to the large mesh size, only occasionally catching shortnose sturgeon, which have a high survival rate. Management measures include a minimum landing size, limited licenses and a conservative quota for the whole fishery. These measures are well enforced and there is annual monitoring of the stock. The fishery is restricted to tidal areas, representing some spatial management and the set gillnets have a low impact on the habitat, so no wider ecosystem impacts are likely. Due to the history of this fishery, all new information relevant to the fishery will be reviewed on an annual basis adjustments made to scoring if necessary.

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Variety

Shovelnose sturgeon

Scaphirhynchus platorhynchus

Method

Wild

Drift gillnet

Location

Mississippi River, US

Overall Rating

1.4 / 5

Summary

Shovelnose sturgeon is one of the species that produces caviar, and as a result, has been in high commercial demand since the 1800’s. The US was the main producer of caviar until the late 19th century until populations declined. Stocks started to rebuild when management regulations were implemented and fishing pressure was lessened, although abundances still remain low. Value of US sturgeon caviar exports has varied from $5000 in 2005 to $750,000 in 2011, primarily due to increased domestic production and restrictions on Russian caviar from endangered species.

Shovelnose sturgeon were previously found in 24 states across the US but are now commercially fished in only a handful of them, due to fluctuating population abundances. Stock status is unknown in many states, and fishing mortality is thought to have been increasing. Sturgeon are at risk of poaching due to the high value of caviar. Shovelnose sturgeon have life history characteristics that make them inherently vulnerable to fishing pressure.

The Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association (MICRA) Sturgeon and Paddlefish Committee is not a regulatory body, but was established in 1992 in order to facilitate exchange of information across state management bodies. No stock assessments or management goals have been established, although general population trends are shared.

Shovelnose sturgeon bear a strong resemblance to the endangered pallid sturgeon, and were given a threatened status in order to better protect the endangered species. Nevertheless, bycatch levels of pallid sturgeon are difficult to estimate due to misidentification. Gillnets do not usually come into contact with the substrate. If contact occurs, damage is minimal.

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Variety

White sturgeon

Acipenser transmontanus

Method

Wild

Drift gillnet

Location

Columbia River Ore.

Overall Rating

2.7 / 5

Summary

White sturgeon is one of the species that produces caviar, and as a result, has been in high commercial demand since the 1800’s. The US was the main producer of caviar until the late 19th century until populations declined. Stocks started to rebuild when management regulations were implemented and fishing pressure was lessened, although abundances still remain low. No commercial fishery exists in California, and in Washington and Oregon, 80% of the fishery is sports, and the remaining 20% is commercial. In 2010/11, landings averaged 115 mt compared to 173 mt in previous years.

Only a sports fishery exists for the white sturgeon in California as stocks are not as healthy as in Oregon and Washington. These latter states have a controlled commercial fishery. Stocks are relatively healthy but have not quite reached target levels. White sturgeon have life history characteristics that make them vulnerable to fishing pressure.

In Washington and Oregon, where a commercial fishery exists, regulations control minimum length, and the catch of females is prohibited thereby preventing the catch of sturgeons for caviar. In an effort to recover stocks, management has focused on the impacts of dams which negatively affect the sturgeon habitat, and predation by seals.

Green sturgeon are a threatened species with high vulnerability to fishing pressure. They are sometimes mistakenly retained in the white sturgeon fishery due to misidentification. Gillnets do not usually come into contact with the substrate. If contact occurs, damage is minimal.

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Variety

Atlantic sturgeon

Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus

Method

Wild

Large mesh bottom gillnet

Location

Quebec: St Lawrence River

Overall Rating

2.3 / 5

Summary

Atlantic sturgeon is one of the sturgeon species that produces caviar, and as a result, has historically been in high commercial demand. Commercial fishing began in 1880 and was so intense that the fishery was closed for 10 years in 1886. Severe fishing restrictions by management were implemented in 1996. Atlantic sturgeon is available as a local product in Canada and as an imported species in the US. About 100-120 tonnes of lake sturgeon and Atlantic sturgeon are produced per year.

In Canada, Atlantic sturgeon are found in riverine estuaries. The Quebec stock in the St Lawrence River is classified as a threatened species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Atlantic sturgeon are not found on the US market due to their listing under the Endangered Species Act. Atlantic sturgeon have life history characteristics that make them highly vulnerable to fishing pressure. This includes a long lifespan, a long time to reach maturity, and infrequent spawning. Fishing mortality is thought to be the primary cause of mortality to the population.

Management of the sturgeon fisheries in Canada is strict. Regulations include gear restrictions, season closures, catch quotas, catch registration, size restrictions and enforcement. It is unknown whether management is effective. Abundance is not known, but based on a coarse estimate, it is thought that the population is between 500-1000 individuals.

Atlantic sturgeon which can reach up to 3m in length, are caught using large bottom gillnets. Due to the large size of the netting, very little bycatch is caught. Undersized individuals are occasionally caught but can be released. Gillnets do not usually come into contact with the substrate. If contact occurs, damage is minimal.

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Variety

Paddlefish

Polyodon spathula

Method

Wild

Drift gillnet

Location

Mississippi River, US

Overall Rating

1.4 / 5

Summary

Paddlefish is one of the species that produces caviar, and as a result, has been in high commercial demand since the 1800’s. The US was the main producer of caviar until the late 19th century until populations declined. Stocks started to rebuild when management regulations were implemented and fishing pressure was lessened, although abundances still remain low. Value of US sturgeon caviar exports has varied from $5000 in 2005 to $750,000 in 2011, primarily due to increased domestic production and restrictions on Russian caviar from endangered species.

Paddlefish previously had a large geographical range, but populations have declined due to habitat damage, and they are now found in only a few areas. Stock status and fishing mortality rates are unknown, although paddlefish are at risk of poaching due to the high value of caviar. Paddlefish have life history characteristics that make them inherently vulnerable to fishing pressure.

The Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association (MICRA) Sturgeon and Paddlefish Committee is not a regulatory body, but was established in 1992 in order to facilitate exchange of information across state management bodies. No stock assessments or management goals have been established, although general population trends are shared.

Gillnets do not usually come into contact with the substrate. If contact occurs, damage is minimal. Bycatch of shovelnose sturgeon is a concern.

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Variety

Lake sturgeon

Acipenser fulvescens

Method

Wild

Large mesh bottom gillnet

Location

Quebec: St Lawrence River

Overall Rating

2.0 / 5

Summary

Lake sturgeon is one of the sturgeon species that produces caviar, and as a result, has historically been in high commercial demand. By the early 20th century, many sturgeon species were overexploited. Many have not recovered sufficiently for a viable commercial fishery. Lake sturgeon is available as a local product in Canada and as an imported species in the US. About 100-120 tonnes of lake sturgeon and Atlantic sturgeon are produced per year.

Lake sturgeon are found in freshwater drainages throughout Canada. They are listed as a threatened species by COSEWIC. In the St Lawrence River, Lake sturgeon under 2m long are targeted. Lake sturgeon have life history characteristics that make them highly vulnerable to fishing pressure. This includes a long lifespan, a long time to reach maturity, and infrequent spawning. Abundance is unknown, and there is conflicting data regarding the population’s recovery from past overfishing.

Management of the sturgeon fisheries in Canada is strict. Regulations include gear restrictions, season closures, catch quotas, catch registration, size restrictions and enforcement. It is unknown whether management is effective. Abundance is not known, but based on a coarse estimate, it is thought that the population is between 500-1000 individuals.

Due to the large size of the netting in bottom gillnets, very little bycatch is caught. Undersized individuals are occasionally caught but can be released. Gillnets do not usually come into contact with the substrate. If contact occurs, damage is minimal.

Learn more about harvest methods