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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a plan to build up the population of the Alabama sturgeon, one of the rarest fish in America.

Jeff Powell, senior aquatic biologist for the fish and wildlife service in Alabama, said periodic recovery plans are required of animals that are listed as endangered species.

Debate over the Alabama sturgeon, a skinny fish which grows to as long as 30 inches and weighs 2 to 3 pounds, has raged for years over whether it should be listed as an endangered species. Powell said the fish was once known as the shovel-nosed sturgeon. Industries and some politicians initially opposed naming the fish an endangered species worrying that it would have an adverse effect on economic growth along the Alabama River and other south Alabama tributaries.

The fish is only found in the Mobile Basin.

Powell said his job is to try to come up with ways to increase the number of sturgeon in Alabama rivers.

“We need to save the fish. We need to prevent extinction. We need to find male and female specimen,” Powell said.

Powell said debate over the fish subsided after the Alabama sturgeon was named an endangered species “and the sky didn’t fall in and industry didn’t fall apart.”

Fish and wildlife officials say an Alabama sturgeon was last caught in 2007.

Powell said the purpose of the new plan is to build up the population of the fish to the point that it no longer needs to be protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Cindy Dohner, southeast regional director for the service, said she hopes the recovery plan will help bring the “sturgeon back from the brink.”

The Alabama sturgeon has been listed as endangered since 2000 due to over-fishing and the loss of habitat in south Alabama rivers.

Officials say the goal is to prevent extinction of the fish by establishing a captive stock of sturgeon and to produce fingerlings to augment the population in some areas.

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