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Genetic evidence for the presence of wild-caught sturgeons in commercial markets in Georgia

April 25, 2024

Sturgeons (Family: Acipenseridae) are among the most endangered taxa worldwide. Significant resources have been invested into the conservation of global sturgeon populations, including the development of commercial aquaculture programs. These programs are intended to improve conservation outcomes by reducing the harvest of wild populations while still meeting commercial demand for sturgeon products. However, there is growing concern that commercial aquaculture programs may contribute to wild population declines through continued, illegal harvest and the escape and/or release of captive individuals into wild environments. These concerns may be particularly acute in the country of Georgia which, despite its small territory and altered landscape, is a globally significant hotspot for sturgeon diversity. In order to understand the potential threat of captive culture on wild sturgeon populations in Georgia, we used mitochondrial DNA sequencing and microsatellite analyses to identify the species and origin of sturgeons encountered in commercial settings. Microsatellite analyses showed significant differentiation between wild and commercial Russian sturgeon populations and highlighted the potential for wild-caught individuals to be present in coastal markets in Georgia. The analyses of mitochondrial haplotypes also suggested that commercial markets may contain sturgeon species that are not native to the region. Overall, our results suggest that wild sturgeon populations may still be exploited to support captive aquaculture programs and commercial sales.

Publication Year 2024
Title Genetic evidence for the presence of wild-caught sturgeons in commercial markets in Georgia
DOI 10.3390/d16050274
Authors Tamar Beridze, Shannon L. White, David C. Kazyak, Levan Ninua, Dewayne A. Fox, Arun Sethuraman, Tamar Edisherashvili, Bianca Roberts, Mikheil Potskhishvili, Michelle Klailova, Cort Anderson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Diversity
Index ID 70254841
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Ecological Science Center