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Live via satellite: Scientists to track Caspian Sea sturgeons

ATYRAU, KAZAKHSTAN--Scientists working in the Ural River, Kazakhstan, have successfully attached Pop-up Archival Transmitting (PAT) tags to four sturgeons and have released the animals into the Caspian Sea, hoping to get a clear picture of Caspian Sea sturgeon movement and behavior never before available.

Led by Dr. Phaedra Doukakis of the University of Miami's Pew Institute for Ocean Science and scientists from the Research and Production Center for the Fish Industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan and in collaboration with Daniel Erickson of the Wildlife Conservation Society, this study of three beluga (Huso huso) sturgeons and one adult ship (Acipenser nudiventris) sturgeon is a rare collaboration between Kazakhstani and American scientists.

"This study is precedent setting," says Dr. Doukakis. "It is the first to use satellite tagging to study Caspian Sea sturgeons. Kazakhstan has taken a giant leap forward with this research and set an example for other Caspian nations to follow. What we learn will be critical for conservation of these highly endangered sturgeons."

Collecting data every minute for a specified period of time and then relaying the archived information to scientists, satellite tags are an increasingly important tool for studying fish biology, especially for sturgeons. Mr. Erickson was the first to apply satellite technology to study sturgeon, using it with green sturgeon on the west coast of the United States.

"These tags provide a window into species biology and behavior not available to us previously," he says. "We will undoubtedly learn things that will challenge long-held assumptions and contribute to better management."

Caspian Sea beluga sturgeon have suffered severe declines in recent times, with estimates suggesting a 90 percent decline over the last two decades. The Ural River is home to the last great population of the beluga and is the only place where beluga reproduces naturally and unhindered
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Contact: Christopher Dudley
chrisdudley@earthlink.net
305-456-1625
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
23-May-2006


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