Experiment fails to breed sturgeon

STATE DIGEST

July 28, 2007

An initial effort to breed a rare Atlantic sturgeon caught in the Chesapeake Bay has fallen short, but scientists leading the effort promise not to give up.

Researchers at the Horn Point laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science have been holding a 7 1/2 -foot-long, 170-pound female sturgeon in a tank since the giant was caught by a waterman April 29 near Tilghman Island.

The catch marked the first time that a sturgeon with eggs was found in the bay in more than three decades. Sturgeon were once common in the Chesapeake Bay and throughout North America, but they were nearly wiped out in the late 19th century for their eggs, which are sold as caviar.

Andy Lazur, an aquaculture specialist at the Horn Point lab, said yesterday that on July 18, biologists made a 2-inch incision in the female sturgeon and removed about 40,000 eggs, which they mixed with sperm from male sturgeon that had been frozen and thawed.

"It ended up being unsuccessful," said Lazur. "We did not see any eggs advance beyond early cell division."

The reason for the failure might have included low egg quality, stress on the fish and the fact that frozen sperm often aren't as healthy as fresh sperm, Lazur said. Reproducing sturgeon in captivity is notoriously difficult, and only about a third of the attempts along the East Coast over the past few decades have succeeded, Lazur said.

The researchers will probably keep the female in a larger tank for another two years, when they hope she will produce eggs again, Lazur said. Then the scientists will try breeding her again with some of the 55 sturgeon, many male, which the lab keeps in captivity.

Tom Pelton

Statewide

: Bond rating

State maintains AAA level

Maryland Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp announced yesterday that the state was again awarded an AAA bond rating in preparation for the sale next week of $375 million of general obligation bonds.

Maryland is one of only seven states to be awarded the highest possible rating from all three major bond rating agencies: Fitch Ratings, Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's.

The rating means that the state can borrow money to undertake new projects such as public schools, hospitals and prisons while paying relatively low interest rates, the treasurer's office explained in a statement.

Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for Gov. Martin O'Malley, said the news bodes well for Maryland's fiscal health.

"Governor O'Malley was pleased that the state's AAA bond rating was maintained and looks forward to continuing to work with the treasurer, comptroller and General Assembly to close the state's $1.4 billion structural deficit so we can begin to make progress again," he said.

Jennifer Skalka

Harford County

: Bel Air

Capital prosecution OK'd

A judge has rejected a state prison inmate's claim that Maryland's de facto moratorium on executions bars prosecutors from seeking the death penalty.

Harford County Circuit Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr. agreed with prosecutors that the defense motion was premature in the case of Kevin G. Johns, charged with first-degree murder for allegedly strangling inmate Philip Parker aboard a state Division of Correction bus in 2005.

Prosecutor S. Ann Brobst, an assistant state's attorney from Baltimore County, has notified the court that the state will seek to execute Johns if he is convicted.

Defense attorney Harry J. Trainor asked Plitt in April to void the notice, citing the state Court of Appeals' finding in December that Maryland didn't properly adopt a procedure for lethal injections. The ruling effectively established a moratorium on executions.

In an order filed July 13, Plitt wrote that Johns' argument may "be premature" because he hasn't yet been convicted or sentenced. Johns' trial was postponed by the dispute. The court has scheduled a conference Aug. 15 to set a trial date.

Associated Press

Maryland

: Global warming

Cardin to view glaciers

U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin left for Greenland yesterday as part of a congressional trip organized to study effects of global warming.

The Maryland Democrat is traveling with other senators who are members of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee. They are scheduled to take a helicopter tour with scientists who will talk about Greenland's glaciers.

Associated Press

Allegany County

: Cumberland

Teen `stuntman' faces charges

A 17-year-old, self-professed stuntman has been charged with trespassing after Allegany County authorities found online video of him jumping off bridges and dams in the Cumberland area.

The teen, Josh Broadwater of Oldtown, has a MySpace.com home page listing his occupation as "stuntman."

He acknowledged that he trespassed to jump off a privately owned railroad bridge spanning the North Branch of the Potomac River for a video recorded May 8.

He was charged as a juvenile Wednesday and released to the custody of a parent, authorities said.

Associated Press

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