Acipenser oxyrinchus - Mitchill, 1815
Atlantic Sturgeon
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Acipenser oxyrinchus Mitchill, 1815 (TSN 553269)
French Common Names: Esturgeon noir
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.102787
Element Code: AFCAA01040
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Fishes - Bony Fishes - Other Bony Fishes
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Actinopterygii Acipenseriformes Acipenseridae Acipenser
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Robins, C.R., R.M. Bailey, C.E. Bond, J.R. Brooker, E.A. Lachner, R.N. Lea, and W.B. Scott. 1991. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 20. 183 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B91ROB01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Acipenser oxyrinchus
Taxonomic Comments: Closely related to, but specifically distinct from, Palearctic A. sturio (see Lee et al. 1980).

Two subspecies are recognized: A. o. oxyrinchus along the Atlantic coast and A. o. desotoi along the Gulf Coast (Page and Burr 1991). See Ong et al. (1996) for genetic data supporting the subspecific designations. MtDNA data reveal strong stock structure along both the North American Atlantic and Gulf coasts at the regional and, in some instances, population levels (Waldman and Wirgin 1998).

The original (and hence correct) spelling of the specific name is "oxyrinchus," not "oxyrhynchus." The latter name, though long in use, must therefore be replaced by the former (see Gilbert 1992:33).

Gene sequencing data of Birstein and DeSalle (1998) indicate that there are least three main clades within Acipenser: A. sturio - A. oxyrinchus, A. schrenckii - A. transmontanus, and all Ponto-Caspian species plus A. dabrysnus and A. brevirostrum.

Krieger et al. (2000) examined phylogenetic relationships of North American sturgeons based on mtDNA sequences and found that (1) nucleotide sequences for all four examined genes for the three Scaphirhynchus species were identical; (2) the two Acipenser oxyrinchus subspecies were very similar in sequence; (3) A. transmontanus and A. medirostris were sister taxa, as were A. fulvescens and A. brevirostrum (in constrast to Birstein and DeSalle 1998).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 15Dec2004
Global Status Last Changed: 01Nov1999
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: Widely distributed along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from southeastern Canada to Louisiana; populations are much depleted throughout the range due to overfishing, habitat degradation, and blockage of spawning areas by dams; declines are continuing in some areas.
Nation: United States
National Status: N3 (05Dec1996)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N2B,NUN,NUM (28Nov2017)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S2), Connecticut (S1), Delaware (S2), District of Columbia (SX), Florida (S2), Georgia (SNR), Louisiana (SNR), Maine (S3), Maryland (S1), Massachusetts (S1), Mississippi (S1), New Hampshire (S1), New Jersey (S1), New York (S1), North Carolina (S2), Pennsylvania (S1), Rhode Island (SH), South Carolina (S3), Virginia (S2)
Canada New Brunswick (S3), Nova Scotia (S2), Prince Edward Island (SNA), Quebec (S3S4)

Other Statuses

Implied Status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): PS:LE,LT
Comments on USESA: Subspecies A. o. desotoi is listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act as Threatened.

The following Distinct Population Segments (DPSs) are listed endangered or threatened by the NMFS as of Feb. 2012: Endangered (New York Bight DPS, Chesapeake Bay DPS, Carolina DPS, South Atlantic DP; Threatened (Gulf of Maine DPS).

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R4 - Southeast
Implied Status under the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC):PS: T,T
Comments on COSEWIC: The St. Lawrence population and Maritimes population are both designated Threatened.
IUCN Red List Category: NT - Near threatened
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Protection Status (CITES): Appendix II

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Subspecies oxyrinchus: Atlantic coast and major estuarine drainages from Labrador to northeastern Florida (at least formerly). Anadromous; spends most of adult life in salt or brackish water in the Atlantic Ocean from Hamilton River, Labrador, and George River, Ungava Bay, Labrador, south to St. Johns River, Florida, and ranging south in winter to Port Canaveral and Hutchinson Island, Florida. Spawning areas and juvenile fish are found in large coastal rivers and estuaries. Fresh and brackish water records are from the St. Lawrence River, Canada; Gulf of Maine; Hudson River, New York; the Delaware River, Pennsylvania; Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay, Maryland; Delaware Bay, Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James River estuaries, Virginia; Roanoke River, North Carolina; Edisto, Pee Dee, Savannah, Ashepoo, Cooper, Congaree, Santee, Sanpit, Winyah and Waccamaw Rivers, South Carolina; and St. Mary's River, Georgia (Gilbert 1989, Collins and Smith 1997). May currently occur in Florida only as a winter resident (Hipes 1996). Little is known of the spawning grounds in Canadian waters (Marine and Coastal Species Information System 1996).

Subspecies desotoi: Gulf Coast and Gulf of Mexico from Suwannee River (and formerly Tampa Bay), Florida, to Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana. There are old records from Bermuda and a doubtful record from French Guiana.

Number of Occurrences: 21 - 80
Number of Occurrences Comments: Subspecies oxyrinchus of Atlantic coast: historically present in approximately 34 rivers in the United States from the Penobscot River, Maine to the St. Johns River, Florida. It is not known how many of these rivers supported spawning. The current range has contracted slightly, from the Kennebec River, Maine (absence from the Penobscot River has not been conclusively determined) to the Satilla River, Georgia. This subspecies is currently present in 32 rivers, and spawning occurs in at least 14 of these rivers (possibly up to 19) (Atlantic Sturgeon Status Review Team 1998, NMFS 1998).

Population Size: 10,000 - 100,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Prior to 1890, there were an estimated 180,000 adult females in the Delaware Bay population (the largest east coast population), and approximately 20,000 in Chesapeake Bay, 29,000 in the southern Atlantic states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida), and 6,000 in the Hudson River (Secor 2002).

Lake (1992) reported that the Atlantic and Gulf Coast spawning population (including the Hudson River) is 10,000 to 100,000 adults. Dovel and Breggren (1983) estimated that the juvenile population in the Hudson River alone matches these numbers.

Recently, 275 adults were collected off the coast of New Jersey (Johnson et al. 1997).

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Unknown

Overall Threat Impact: High
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Stocks on the Atlantic slope have been severely reduced by overfishing (mainly late 1800s and early 1900s), pollution, sedimentation, and blockage of access to spawning areas by dams (Gilbert 1989, Burkhead and Jenkins 1991, Marine and Coastal Species Information System 1996).

Commercial harvest targeted adult females (source of caviar), which led to fisheries collapse (Secor 2002). In recent years, landings in Canadian waters have increased substantially whereas in the U.S. landings are more controlled or prohibited; fishery managers in Canada are in the process of establishing more stringent regulations (Smith and Clugston 1996). Current information indicates that accidental mortality of Atlantic sturgeon bycatch does not threaten or endanger populations along the Atlantic coast (Atlantic Sturgeon Status Review Team 1998). In the southeastern U.S., significant numbers are caught, killed, and/or injured in gill-net fishery for American shad and in trawl fishery for PENAEUS shrimp (Collins et al. 1996).

Habitat loss due to dam construction and water pollution are thought to be major factors impeding full recovery of populations (Smith 1985, cited by Johnson et al. 1997; Gilbert 1989). In Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere in the range, hypoxic events have increased and may degrade nursery habitat for Atlantic sturgeon (Secor and Gunderson 1997). Declines in water quality in coastal bays and in the Gulf of Mexico may hinder recovery by negatively impacting benthic invertebrate communities; sturgeons rely on these areas for nourishment during periods of gonadal growth (Fox et al. 2002). A late maturation age and use of estuaries, coastal bays, and upstream areas of rivers for spawning and juvenile development make stocks vulnerable to habitat alterations in many areas.

See NMFS (1998) and Atlantic Sturgeon Status Review Team (1998) for further details and evaluation of current threats.

Short-term Trend: Decline of >30%
Short-term Trend Comments: Overall, the species appears to have declined in recent years, although some populations still support limited fisheries (St. John River, New Brunswick). Populations in the Hudson and Delaware rivers apparently declined substantially during the latter years of the commercial harvest that ran through 1996 (Sturgeon Notes, Cornell University, November 1993; Atlantic Sturgeon Status Review Team 1998; NMFS 1998). Wild juveniles still exist in the Chesapeake Bay, though recent spawning there was undocumented as of 2002 (Welsh et al. 2002).

In some southern areas where the directed fishery has been closed for some time, limited data from bycatch and fishery independent surveys suggest that those stocks are rebuilding (Atlantic Sturgeon Status Review Team 1998). For example, limited sampling in the Cape Fear River, North Carolina, during 1997 suggested a substantial increase in abundance of juvenile Atlantic sturgeon in comparison to sampling during 1990-1992 (the fishery was closed in 1991). During 1995-1997, approximately 500 age < 1 Atlantic sturgeon were tagged in a single 0.5-mile section of the Edisto River, South Carolina. This suggests successful recruitment, which is indicative of a healthy population, despite heavy fishing pressure prior to the closure of the fishery in 1985 (Atlantic Sturgeon Status Review Team 1998).

See Waldman and Wirgin (1998) and Atlantic Sturgeon Status Review Team (1998) for a river by river description of status.

Long-term Trend: Decline of >50%
Long-term Trend Comments: The overall population declined drastically over historical periods. Serious population declines occurred in the late 1800s and early 1900s and less drastic declines continued into the 1900s; in the Delaware Bay area, the center for sturgeon fishing, population sizes of all sturgeon species declined 95% between 1891 and 1901 (Gilbert 1989). The species is apparently extirpated in some areas (e.g., Maryland tributaries of Chesapeake Bay; St. Marys River, Florida-Georgia; possibly St. Johns River, Florida), but the overall range is not greatly reduced.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Highly vulnerable

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Protection Needs: Maintain the U.S. moratorium on harvesting. Improve water quality in rivers, restrict habitat alteration, regulate commercial fishing; protect spawning sites.

Smith (1985, cited by Johnson et al. 1997) recommended a rangewide threatened or endangered designation and a moratorium on harvest. The management plan adopted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in 1990 called for size limits, a moratorium on harvest, or adoption of alternative measures that are conservationally equivalent (Taub 1990, cited by Johnson et al. 1997).

Distribution
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Global Range: Subspecies oxyrinchus: Atlantic coast and major estuarine drainages from Labrador to northeastern Florida (at least formerly). Anadromous; spends most of adult life in salt or brackish water in the Atlantic Ocean from Hamilton River, Labrador, and George River, Ungava Bay, Labrador, south to St. Johns River, Florida, and ranging south in winter to Port Canaveral and Hutchinson Island, Florida. Spawning areas and juvenile fish are found in large coastal rivers and estuaries. Fresh and brackish water records are from the St. Lawrence River, Canada; Gulf of Maine; Hudson River, New York; the Delaware River, Pennsylvania; Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay, Maryland; Delaware Bay, Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James River estuaries, Virginia; Roanoke River, North Carolina; Edisto, Pee Dee, Savannah, Ashepoo, Cooper, Congaree, Santee, Sanpit, Winyah and Waccamaw Rivers, South Carolina; and St. Mary's River, Georgia (Gilbert 1989, Collins and Smith 1997). May currently occur in Florida only as a winter resident (Hipes 1996). Little is known of the spawning grounds in Canadian waters (Marine and Coastal Species Information System 1996).

Subspecies desotoi: Gulf Coast and Gulf of Mexico from Suwannee River (and formerly Tampa Bay), Florida, to Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana. There are old records from Bermuda and a doubtful record from French Guiana.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, CT, DCextirpated, DE, FL, GA, LA, MA, MD, ME, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, SC, VA
Canada NB, NS, PEexotic, QC

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AL Dale (01045), Escambia (01053)*, Houston (01069)
CT Fairfield (09001), Middlesex (09007), New Haven (09009), New London (09011)
FL Bay (12005)*, Brevard (12009), Calhoun (12013), Charlotte (12015), Clay (12019), Dixie (12029), Duval (12031), Escambia (12033), Gadsden (12039), Gilchrist (12041), Holmes (12059), Jackson (12063), Leon (12073), Levy (12075), Liberty (12077), Okaloosa (12091), Pinellas (12103), Santa Rosa (12113), Wakulla (12129), Walton (12131), Washington (12133)
GA Appling (13001), Atkinson (13003), Baldwin (13009), Ben Hill (13017), Bibb (13021), Bleckley (13023), Brantley (13025), Bryan (13029), Bulloch (13031), Burke (13033), Camden (13039), Charlton (13049), Chatham (13051), Coffee (13069), Crisp (13081)*, Dodge (13091), Dougherty (13095)*, Effingham (13103), Emanuel (13107), Glascock (13125), Glynn (13127), Hancock (13141), Houston (13153), Jeff Davis (13161), Jefferson (13163), Jenkins (13165), Johnson (13167), Jones (13169), Laurens (13175), Liberty (13179), Long (13183), Mcintosh (13191), Montgomery (13209), Muscogee (13215)*, Pierce (13229), Pulaski (13235), Richmond (13245), Screven (13251), Sumter (13261)*, Tattnall (13267), Telfair (13271), Toombs (13279), Treutlen (13283), Twiggs (13289), Ware (13299), Warren (13301), Washington (13303), Wayne (13305), Wheeler (13309), Wilcox (13315), Wilkinson (13319)
LA Ascension (22005), Livingston (22063), Orleans (22071), St. Bernard (22087), St. Tammany (22103), Tangipahoa (22105)*, Washington (22117)
MA Barnstable (25001)*, Bristol (25005)*, Essex (25009)
MD Calvert (24009), Harford (24025)
MS Copiah (28029)*, Forrest (28035), Hancock (28045)*, Harrison (28047)*, Hinds (28049), Jackson (28059), Lawrence (28077), Madison (28089)*, Pike (28113)*, Rankin (28121), Simpson (28127)*, Smith (28129)*, Walthall (28147)*
NC Beaufort (37013), Bertie (37015), Brunswick (37019), Camden (37029), Carteret (37031), Chowan (37041), Craven (37049), Currituck (37053), Dare (37055), Gates (37073), Halifax (37083), Hertford (37091), Hyde (37095), Jones (37103), Martin (37117), New Hanover (37129), Northampton (37131), Onslow (37133), Pamlico (37137), Pasquotank (37139), Pender (37141), Perquimans (37143), Pitt (37147), Tyrrell (37177), Washington (37187)
NH Rockingham (33015), Strafford (33017)
NJ Atlantic (34001), Bergen (34003), Burlington (34005), Cape May (34009), Cumberland (34011), Gloucester (34015), Hudson (34017), Monmouth (34025), Ocean (34029), Salem (34033), Warren (34041)
NY Bronx (36005), Columbia (36021), Dutchess (36027), Greene (36039), New York (36061), Orange (36071), Putnam (36079), Rockland (36087), Ulster (36111), Westchester (36119)
PA Bucks (42017)*
SC Berkeley (45015)
VA Charles City (51036), Chesterfield (51041), Hampton (City) (51650), Henrico (51087), Hopewell (City) (51670), Isle of Wight (51093), James City (51095), Newport News (City) (51700), Norfolk (City) (51710), Portsmouth (City) (51740), Prince George (51149), Surry (51181)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Lower Penobscot (01020005), Lower Kennebec (01030003), Lower Androscoggin (01040002), St. George-Sheepscot (01050003), Piscataqua-Salmon Falls (01060003)+, Merrimack (01070002)+, Middle Connecticut (01080201)*, Lower Connecticut (01080205)+, Narragansett (01090004)+, Thames (01100003)+*, Quinnipiac (01100004)+, Housatonic (01100005)+
02 Middle Hudson (02020006)+, Rondout (02020007)+, Hudson-Wappinger (02020008)+, Lower Hudson (02030101)+, Sandy Hook-Staten Island (02030104)+, Long Island Sound (02030203)+, Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+, Lehigh (02040106)*, Crosswicks-Neshaminy (02040201)+, Lower Delaware (02040202)+, Schuylkill (02040203)*, Delaware Bay (02040204)+, Brandywine-Christina (02040205), Cohansey-Maurice (02040206)+, Broadkill-Smyrna (02040207)*, Mullica-Toms (02040301)+, Great Egg Harbor (02040302)+, Chincoteague (02040303)+, Lower Susquehanna (02050306)+, Upper Chesapeake Bay (02060001), Severn (02060004)+, Choptank (02060005), Blackwater-Wicomico (02060007), Nanticoke (02060008), Pocomoke (02060009), Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan (02070010), Lower Potomac (02070011), Lower Chesapeake Bay (02080101)+, Great Wicomico-Piankatank (02080102), Lower Rappahannock (02080104), Mattaponi (02080105), Pamunkey (02080106), York (02080107), Lynnhaven-Poquoson (02080108)+, Lower James (02080206)+, Appomattox (02080207)+, Hampton Roads (02080208)+
03 Lower Roanoke (03010107)+, Nottoway (03010201)*, Ghowan (03010203)+, Meheriin (03010204)+, Albemarle (03010205)+, Lower Tar (03020103)+, Pamlico (03020104)+, Pamlico Sound (03020105)+, Bogue-Core Sounds (03020106), Middle Neuse (03020202)+, Lower Neuse (03020204)+, White Oak River (03020301)+, New River (03020302)+, New (03030001), Lower Cape Fear (03030005)+, Black (03030006)+, Northeast Cape Fear (03030007)+, Lower Pee Dee (03040201), Black (03040205), Waccamaw (03040206)*, Coastal Carolina (03040208)+, Santee (03050112), Cooper (03050201)+, South Carolina Coastal (03050202), Edisto (03050205), Broad-St. Helena (03050208), Middle Savannah (03060106)+, Lower Savannah (03060109)+, Upper Ogeechee (03060201)+, Lower Ogeechee (03060202)+, Canoochee (03060203)+, Ogeechee Coastal (03060204)+, Lower Oconee (03070102)+, Upper Ocmulgee (03070103)+, Lower Ocmulgee (03070104)+, Altamaha (03070106)+, Satilla (03070201)+, Cumberland-St. Simons (03070203)+, St. Marys (03070204)+, Lower St. Johns (03080103)+, Cape Canaveral (03080202)+, Peace (03100101)+, Tampa Bay (03100206)*, Waccasassa (03110101)+, Upper Suwannee (03110201), Lower Suwannee (03110205)+, Santa Fe (03110206), Lower Ochlockonee (03120003)+, Middle Chattahoochee-Walter F. George Reservoir (03130003)+*, Middle Flint (03130006)+*, Lower Flint (03130008)+*, Apalachicola (03130011)+, St. Andrew-St. Joseph Bays (03140101)+, Choctawhatchee Bay (03140102)+, Yellow (03140103)+, Blackwater (03140104)+, Pensacola Bay (03140105)+, Perdido Bay (03140107), Upper Choctawhatchee (03140201)+, Pea (03140202), Lower Choctawhatchee (03140203)+, Lower Conecuh (03140304)+, Escambia (03140305)+, Lower Coosa (03150107)*, Lower Tallapoosa (03150110)*, Cahaba (03150202)*, Middle Alabama (03150203), Lower Alabama (03150204), Middle Tombigbee-Chickasaw (03160201)*, Lower Tambigbee (03160203), Mobile - Tensaw (03160204), Mobile Bay (03160205), Upper Chickasawhay (03170002), Lower Chickasawhay (03170003), Upper Leaf (03170004)+, Lower Leaf (03170005), Pascagoula (03170006)+, Black (03170007)+, Escatawpa (03170008)+, Mississippi Coastal (03170009)+, Upper Pearl (03180001)*, Middle Pearl-Strong (03180002)+, Middle Pearl-Silver (03180003)+, Lower Pearl. Mississippi (03180004)+, Bogue Chitto (03180005)+
08 Big Sunflower (08030207), Amite (08070202)+, Tickfaw (08070203)+*, Lake Maurepas (08070204)+*, Tangipahoa (08070205)+*, Lower Mississippi-New Orleans (08090100)*, Liberty Bayou-Tchefuncta (08090201)+, Lake Pontchartrain (08090202)+, Eastern Louisiana Coastal (08090203)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed (based on multiple information sources) Help
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A large fish (sturgeon) that reaches a maximum length of about 4.3 meters.
General Description: Snout shovel-shaped, long, and sharply V-shaped, with large fleshy barbels (snout upturned in young); mouth ventrally located; large bony scutes on the head and among the back and sides (white spines on scutes contrast with dark skin); tail heterocercal; 2 pairs of preanal scutes; 4 small scutes, usually as 2 pairs, between anal fin and caudal fulcrum (first pair may overlap anal fin base, second pair may look like one scute); 6-9 scutes, mostly in pairs, behind dorsal fin; blue-black above, white below; fins blue-black to gray; paired fins, lower lobe of caudal fin, and anal fin have white leading edge; 26-28 anal rays; 15-27 gill rakers; 7-16 scutes on back; 24-35 scutes along side; maximum length about 4.3 m (Page and Burr 1991).
Diagnostic Characteristics: Differs from the shortnose sturgeon in having a longer, more sharply V-shaped snout, a larger number of scutes between the anal and caudal fins (4 vs. 1), preanal scutes in two rows rather than in one row, and a large number of scutes behind the dorsal fin (6-9 vs. 2). Differs from the white sturgeon in having scutes between the anal and caudal fins and between the dorsal and caudal fins (obvious scutes are absent in these locations in white sturgeon). Differs from green sturgeon in being blue-black above rather than green, and in having two rows of preanal scutes (vs. 1) and 4 (vs. 1) large scutes between the anal and caudal fins. See Page and Burr (1991).
Reproduction Comments: Spawns as early as February-March in the south, April-May in Chesapeake Bay tributaries, May-July in north, at water temperatures of 13-21 C. Eggs hatch in about a week. Females first breed at about 11 years (mean) in South Carolina, 18-19 years in the Hudson River, about 27-28 years in the St. Lawrence River; generally matures at a younger age in the south than in the north (as early as 7 years or as late as 34 years). Successive spawnings may be separated by intervals of a few to several years. May live several decades. See Gilbert (1989) for much further information on reproduction.
Habitat Type: Freshwater
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: Adults migrate between fresh water spawning areas and salt water nonspawning areas. Makes extensive coastal migrations; may move up to 1500 km along coast from spawning rivers. Some individualscaptured in the Chesapeake Bay have come from as far north as the Hudson River and as far south as South Carolina (see Burkhead and Jenkins 1991). Wild and hatchery-reared juveniles tagged in the Hudson River have been captured in Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay (see Welsh et al. 2002). See Sturgeon Notes #4, (1996, Cornell University) for information on movements in the Hudson River.
Marine Habitat(s): Near shore
Estuarine Habitat(s): Bay/sound, River mouth/tidal river
Riverine Habitat(s): BIG RIVER, Low gradient, MEDIUM RIVER, Moderate gradient
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic
Habitat Comments: Primarily marine, but close to shore, when not breeding; migrates to rivers for spawning, moves downstream afterward (may stay upstream in winter in some northern areas).

Telemetered adults in Choctawhatchee Bay area, Florida, usually were in nearshore waters 2-4 m deep in winter and spring; individuals usually remained within small areas (which typically had sandy substrate containing benthic crustaceans and annelids) for several weeks but sometimes moved long distances (Fox et al. 2002). Most males stayed in the Bay whereas most females were in the Gulf of Mexico or could not be detected.

Juveniles spend winter and spring mainly in river mouths. In some rivers, juveniles may spend several years continuously in freshwater; in others, they may move downstream to brackish water when temperatures drop in the fall (Hoff 1980).

Spawns in fresh water (sometimes tidal) usually over bottom of hard clay, rubble, gravel, or shell. May spawn in brackish water. In the Pee Dee River, South Carolina, has been reported as spawning in relatively slow current in turbid water over substrates of sand and silt (see Gilbert 1989).

Adult Food Habits: Invertivore, Piscivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore, Piscivore
Food Comments: Feeds primarily on benthic invertebrates and small fishes as available (e.g., worms, crustaceans, aquatic insects, snails, sand lances).
Length: 200 centimeters
Economic Attributes
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Economic Comments: Limited commercial fishery (much more important in late 1800s, before population decline, especially in Delaware Bay); no significant sport fishery (Gilbert 1989).
Management Summary
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Restoration Potential: Genetic differentiation among populations indicates that this species has low intrinsic rates of recolonization of rivers; combined with a low rate of population increase, this suggests that natural recolonization and population recovery may take decades or centuries (Waldman and Wirgin 1998).

Management Requirements: Hatchery-reared individuals have been released in the Hudson River (New York) and Nanticoke River, Chesapeake Bay (Welsh et al. 2002). Commerical fisheries in Chesapeake Bay caught 420 of 3,300 individuals released in the Nanticoke in the four years following the release (Welsh et al. 2002).

For recent information on Hudson River sturgeon, see Sturgeon Notes, a newsletter of Cornell University and the Hudson River Foundation.

Monitoring Requirements: See Atlantic Sturgeon Status Review Team (1998).
Management Research Needs: Current research focus: life history and population status studies, stock delineation, and development of culture and stock enhancement techniques (Smith and Clugston 1996).
Biological Research Needs: Determine specific habitat needs. Determine population numbers in coastal bays, estuaries, and rivers. Determine extent of threats. Continue study of the feasibility of hatchery culture and stocking in restoring populations.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Fishes with Anadromous Populations

Use Class: Freshwater
Subtype(s): Rearing & Migration Area, Spawning & Rearing Area
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including eggs and larvae) in appropriate habitat. For anadromous populations, occurrences are based on collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more spawning adults, redds, other evidence of spawning, or larvae or juveniles in appropriate spawning/rearing habitat.
Mapping Guidance: Conceptually, the occurrence includes the entire freshwater area used by the population, including spawning, rearing, and migration areas. For anadromous populations, an occurrence should extend from the most upstream spawning areas downstream to the ocean. However, it is desirable (and practical) to subdivide this sometimes very large occurrence, sometimes overlapping with many other spaghetti-like occurrences extending down from the upstream spawning areas to the ocean, into separate source features or sub-occurrences, labeled with a feature label that reflects the life history stage in that area. Moreover, it may make practical sense to treat the areas downstream of spawning and/or rearing areas as a mixed element animal assemblage: Freshwater Salmon Migration Corridor. This negates the need to separately map each occurrence down to the ocean from its upstream spawning location. Information about areas with different life-history uses can be generated by using best professional judgment by district or regional fish biologists and may or may not incorporate specific locational information from spawning surveys or other surveys.
Separation Barriers: Dam lacking a suitable fishway; high waterfall; upland habitat that is very unlikely to be submerged even during periods of exceptionally high water (e.g., 100-year flood or 1% flood).
Alternate Separation Procedure: For anadromous populations and migratory populations that have distinct and separate spawning and nonspawning areas, the area used by each population whose spawning area is separated by a gap of at least 10 stream-km from other spawning areas within a stream system is potentially mappable as a distinct occurrence that extends down to the ocean (but see mapping guidance), regardless of whether the spawning areas are in the same or different tributaries.

For other (e.g., nonanadromous) populations in streams, separation distance is 10 stream-km for both suitable and unsuitable habitat. However, if it is known that the same population occupies sites separated by more than 10 km (e.g., this may be common for migratory, nonanadromous populations), those sites should be included within the same occurrence. In lakes, occurrences include all suitable habitat that is presumed to be occupied (based on expert judgment), even if documented collection/observation points are more than 10 km apart. Separate sub-occurrences or source features may usefully document locations of critical spawning areas within a lake.

Separation Justification: The separation distance is arbitrary but was selected to ensure that occurrences are of manageable size but not too small. Because of the difficulty in defining suitable versus unsuitable habitat, especially with respect to dispersal, and to simplify the delineation of occurrences, a single separation distance is used regardless of habitat quality.

"Restricted movement is the norm in populations of stream salmonids during nonmigratory periods," but there is considerable variation in movements within and among species (Rodriguez 2002). Redband trout in Montana had October-December home ranges of 5-377 m, consistent with small movements observed for radio-tagged brook trout and cutthroat trout during fall and winter (Muhlfeld et al. 2001). For nonanadromous populations, little is known about juvenile dispersal (e.g., how far fishes may move between between their embryonic developmental habitat and eventual spawning site).

In summer and fall, radio-tagged cutthroat trout in Strawberry Reservoir in Utah had single-month home ranges that were usually about 3-4 km in maximum length (Baldwin et al. 2002). In the Blackfoot River drainage, Montana, radio-tagged westslope cutthroat trout moved 3-72 km (mean 31 km) to access spawning tributaries (Schmetterling 2001). This indicates that migratory but nonanadromous populations may use extensive areas and that one should not invoke the 10-km separation distance without considering the full extent of the population.

Date: 25Nov2009
Author: Hammerson, G., and L. Master
Notes: This Specs Group comprises fish species that include anadromous populations (may also include nonanadromous populations), such as lampreys, sturgeons, herrings, shads, salmonids, and smelts.

Criteria for marine occurrences (Location Use Class: Marine) have not yet been established. These may not be needed for marine occurrences of species that likely will be dealt with as mixed element assemblages (e.g., Salmonid Marine Concentration Area).

Feature Descriptor Definitions:

Spawning Area: area used for spawning but not for rearing or migration.

Rearing Area: area used for larval/juvenile development but not for spawning or migration.

Migration Corridor: area used for migration but not for rearing or spawning.

Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 09Nov2004
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G., T. Mabee, C. Sahley, F. Dirrigl, Jr., and P. Novak
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 30Aug1996
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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References for Watershed Distribution Map
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