North American paddlefish, Polyodon spathula, were once abundant in most large rivers and tributaries of the Mississippi River basin, but numbers have declined dramatically in most areas during the past 100 years. Habitat destruction and river modification are the most obvious changes affecting their distribution and abun- dance. Although peripheral range has dwindled, paddlefish still occur over most of their historic range and are still found in 22 states. Populations are currently increasing in 3 states, stable in 14, declining in 2, unknown in 3, and extirpated in 4. Sport harvests presently occur in 14 states, however two states with traditionally impor- tant sport fisheries report decreased recruitment into the population and are planning more restrictive regu- lations. Commercial fisheries are reported in only six states. During the past 10 years, five states have removed paddlefish from their commercial list primarily because of declines in adult stocks due to overfishing or illegal fishing. Ten states are currently stocking paddlefish to supplement existing populations or to recover paddlefish populations in the periphery of its native range.
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