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Ocean Park Announces Loss of Two Chinese Sturgeons During Quarantine Period

2014-05-19

Ocean Park is saddened to announce the loss of two captive bred Chinese sturgeons on 21 April and 12 May 2014 respectively, which were undergoing quarantine in the back of house support facilities.

The two sturgeons were part of a group of 15 captive bred Chinese sturgeons imported on 18 February 2014 and were undergoing quarantine before introduction to the Chinese Sturgeon Aquarium (CSA) later this year. The two sturgeons were found swimming abnormally on 21 April and the night of 11 May respectively. The Park’s animal care and veterinary teams provided immediate support, but the fish passed away shortly after the abnormal behavior was noted on both occasions. All other fish residing at the quarantine facility are being closely monitored.   Ocean Park immediately engaged the National Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Association (NAWCA), the Yangtze River Fisheries Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences (YRFRI) and Beijing Aquarium to inform of the situation and arranged for a delegate from the YRFRI to visit this week for further examination of the new sturgeons.

Ms. Suzanne Gendron, Executive Director of Zoological Operations and Education, said, “We are extremely saddened by the loss of the two sturgeons. We are completely committed to determining the cause and have consulted with our colleagues in China as part of the ongoing investigations.  We will continue to monitor the rest of the quarantined sturgeons and will not transfer any of the newly acquired sturgeons to the exhibit population until more is known.” She added, “Through the husbandry and display of Chinese sturgeons at Ocean Park, we are able to acquire invaluable understanding on the species’ growth rate and life history. This information provides baseline data as part of the ongoing Chinese Sturgeon research and conservation studies in Mainland China.”

The YRFRI was also consulted once abnormalities in the fish behavior were noticed, and their advice has helped the Park’s team in providing care to the fish before they finally succumbed to their conditions.  Necropsy of the first Chinese sturgeon indicated a gill infection, while the second fish succumbed to infection of several internal organs. The source of the infection is currently being investigated. Ocean Park will continue to monitor the remaining 13 sturgeons, and liaise closely with the YRFRI to confirm the source of the infection, before introducing them to the CSA exhibit.

Prof. Wei Qi-wei, Director of Yangtze River Fisheries Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, said, “We have worked closely with Ocean Park on treating and determining the cause of death of the Chinese sturgeons. We will continue to maintain our close partnership with the Park, and are confident that they will continue to provide excellent care to the Chinese sturgeons and serve as an education platform for the efforts being made to breed and conserve the species.”

The two Chinese sturgeons belonged to a school of 15 that were donated to Ocean Park in February 2014 by NAWCA. They were under quarantine before being introduced to the CSA later this year to replace 6 of the 9 larger Chinese sturgeons currently on exhibit at the Park. Under a previous agreement with the NAWCA, the sturgeons raised at the Park will be returned to Mainland China for a release programme, after they have grown to the requisite size for tagging and release back to the wild. NAWCA has developed a breeding programme over the years, and are currently keeping thousands of Chinese sturgeons in their facility.  The existing Chinese sturgeon on display have done very well and have thrived in their environment at Ocean Park and are reaching the optimum size to be returned to Mainland China.

The Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), Ministry of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China and NAWCA were notified of the incidents immediately.