Ocean Park considers new tack with sturgeon

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 January, 2009, 12:00am

If Ocean Park were to receive more Chinese sturgeon from the mainland, the park would probably keep them in fresh water, rather than introduce them to salt water as had been done with the sturgeon already received, Ocean Park chairman Allan Zeman said yesterday.

But Mr Zeman said there was no indication at present that the theme park would receive another mainland gift of the endangered fish, which begin their life in fresh water, switch to seawater and then return to fresh water to breed.

'There's a good chance in future about having freshwater sturgeon as well. But it's still too early. Nothing concrete has been done or said yet,' he said.

Of the 10 Chinese sturgeon Ocean Park has received from the mainland, three have died and two have become sick and were sent to a Fujian research centre for treatment.

When a 10-year-old fish died last month, mainland experts concluded that improperly induced salination - the process by which the environment is changed from fresh water to salt water - could have harmed the health of the fish and made it more susceptible to infection.

Mr Zeman said the five fish remaining at the park were acclimatising to seawater and were relatively healthy. 'It's an ongoing research project,' he said.

The endangered fish could survive in both fresh water and salt water, but on the mainland sturgeon were kept in freshwater, Mr Zeman said.

Board members were updated on the situation regarding the sturgeon at a meeting yesterday, he said.

Experts are keen to study the rare fish. Only one in 10,000 sturgeon eggs laid in the wild survives. The fish make the transition from fresh water to seawater and back to fresh water to lay eggs.

Ocean Park was selected to receive Chinese sturgeon so the fish could be studied, especially to see what happens to them when they make the transition to seawater, Mr Zeman said.

Younger sturgeon tend to go through the transition process more easily than older ones. Sturgeon can live for 50 to 60 years.