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    Fish is sturgeon, experts confirm

    By MIKE BRASSFIELD
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 17, 2002

    ST. PETERSBURG -- Marine scientists have verified that a large fish that washed up in the Shore Acres neighborhood Friday was a sturgeon, and scientists are excited the rare fish was found here.

    "It's very interesting to me that this fish was in Tampa Bay," said Dan Roberts of the Florida Marine Research Institute, which collected the dead fish Saturday morning. "To find a sturgeon this size in Tampa Bay at this time of year -- it's very curious."

    The reason? Scientists wonder whether the endangered fish might someday make a comeback in Tampa Bay.

    Gulf sturgeon, which are threatened with extinction, were once plentiful in the bay but were killed off in this region by overfishing, dams and pollution. Until recently, they hadn't been seen in the bay for about a century.

    Marine scientists put nearly 50 gulf sturgeon into the Hillsborough River in 2000, but Roberts said the sturgeon that washed up Friday was too big to be one of those fish. It was a fully grown adult.

    "This is the biggest one that has been found in Tampa Bay in my lifetime," said Roberts, 52, director of the Tampa Bay Sturgeon Project. He suspects this particular fish came from the Suwannee River, a sturgeon spawning area to the north. Scientists plan to perform a necropsy on the fish today.

    "I suspect we'll find some sort of transmitter in this fish -- like manatees, most of them are being studied and tracked. We'll find out where he came from," Roberts said. "This is a major find. It's the most spectacular specimen of a gulf sturgeon that I've ever seen. This is . . . a beautiful fish."

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