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Illegal commercial exploitation and population declines of several threatened sturgeon and paddlefish species (Order Acipenseriformes).EPA Grant Number: U915308
Title: Illegal commercial exploitation and population declines of several threatened sturgeon and paddlefish species (Order Acipenseriformes).
Investigators: Doukakis, Phaedra
Institution: Yale University
EPA Project Officer: Manty, Dale
Project Period: September 1, 1998 through
Project Amount: $56,346
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1998) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Molecular Biology/Genetics , Biology/Life Sciences , Academic Fellowships
Demand for caviar has led to illegal commercial exploitation and population declines of several threatened sturgeon and paddlefish species (Order Acipenseriformes). For effective, long-term conservation of all Acipenseriformes species, caviar trade regulations and fisheries management programs must incorporate an understanding of distinct, intraspecific conservation units. To formulate a comprehensive management plan for commercial species, develop forensic tools for determining the specific origin of commercial sturgeon products and assist in enforcing harvest regulations, this study will use molecular genetic techniques to: 1) examine the current morphologically and geographically defined stock and subspecies designations for the three main commercial species (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii, A.stellatus, Huso huso); 2) develop a method to identify the subspecies origin of Acipenser baerii commercial products to differentiate between aquaculture and wild-harvested caviar; and 3) enhance the existing molecular method to differentiate between closely related Ponto-Caspian species (A. baerii, A.naccarii, and A.persicus). Results of these studies will provide a basis for developing molecular probes specific for the species, subspecies and stock level.
Sequencing of the NADH 5/6 and control regions of the mitochondrial DNA will be employed to address these issues. Fixed nucleotide differences will be used in designing probes for Ponto-Caspian species and will be regarded as conclusive evidence for the delineation of management units for commercial stocks and subspecies. In the absence of fixed differences, population genetics methodology will be used to estimate gene flow between intraspecific units. PCR, microsatellite, and "molecular beacon" based techniques will be considered for developing molecular probes for forensic purposes. All results will be directly applied to current commercial fisheries management and restocking programs, and in developing consumer awareness labels (sustainable harvest seal), enforcing CITES regulations, and prosecuting poachers. Examination of results in a phylogenetic context will contribute to the general knowledge of sturgeon taxonomy and evolution.