Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Montana Fishery
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Montana Fishery Project

Environmental and endogenous factors affecting egg quality and caviar yield in farmed sturgeon

June 2011 - July 2017


Participating Agencies

  • U of Washington, Western Regional Aquaculture Center

Several families in select year classes of the captive broodstock of the endangered pallid sturgeon are experiencing high levels of accumulation of gonadal fat which impairs reproductive performance. Sturgeon farmers in California and Idaho also observe highly variable roe yield in mature sturgeon associated with accumulation of fat in the ovaries. Environmental, genetic and developmental factors can all affect gonadal fat accumulation, but as of yet the role of these factors is not well understood. Understanding these effects is essential for conservation propagation of endangered sturgeons and sustained production of high quality sturgeon caviar. We are utilizing the aquaculture farms in California and Idaho to conduct a collaborative study, with participation of four states and four sturgeon farms, aimed to investigate these effects on the ovarian adiposity, roe yield, and caviar quality in farmed sturgeon. These results will be directly applicable to sturgeon conservation propagation programs to understand the influence of culture conditions vs. genetic and developmental factors on the reproductive performance of captive populations.