Acipenser brevirostrum - LeSueur, 1818
Shortnose Sturgeon
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Acipenser brevirostrum Lesueur, 1818 (TSN 161069)
French Common Names: esturgeon à museau court
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.105033
Element Code: AFCAA01010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Fishes - Bony Fishes - Other Bony Fishes
Image 61

© Noel Burkhead

 
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 brevirostrum
Taxonomic Comments: One of five North American species in the genus.

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: 21May2015
Global Status Last Changed: 25Sep1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: Occurs mainly in rivers along the Atlantic coast from southeastern Canada to Florida; about 20 occurrences; recently, several large viable populations have been found (in Maine and New Brunswick); threatened by pollution and other habitat alteration.
Nation: United States
National Status: N3 (05Dec1996)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N3 (28Dec2017)

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 Connecticut (S1), Delaware (S3N), District of Columbia (SX), Florida (S1), Georgia (S2), Maine (S3), Maryland (S1), Massachusetts (S1), New Hampshire (S1), New Jersey (S1), New York (S1), North Carolina (S1), Pennsylvania (S2), Rhode Island (SH), South Carolina (S3), Virginia (SHB,S1N)
Canada New Brunswick (S3)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LE: Listed endangered (11Mar1967)
Comments on USESA: In a 12-month petition finding, NMFS (2015) determined that the population of shortnose sturgeon from the Saint John River does not qualify as a distinct population segment and therefore they do not propose to delist this population.

In 1995, USFWS determined that delisting of the Kennebec River system population may be warranted; a rangewide status survey was initiated (Federal Register, 6 January 1995, p. 2070-2071).

Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA) Schedule 1/Annexe 1 Status: SC (05Mar2009)
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Special Concern (01May2015)
Comments on COSEWIC: Reason for designation: This large-bodied, slow-growing, late-maturing fish is found only in a single river estuary system in Canada where spawning fish aggregate in a single known location. Although there are no imminent threats toward the species, its limited distribution makes the species vulnerable to becoming Threatened if conditions thought to negatively impact it (variable flow patterns, pollution, bycatch in commercial fisheries, and poaching) are not managed effectively.

Status history: Designated Special Concern in April 1980. Status re?examined and confirmed in May 2005 and in May 2015.

IUCN Red List Category: VU - Vulnerable
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Protection Status (CITES): Appendix I
American Fisheries Society Status: Endangered (01Aug2008)

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: The shortnose sturgeon is found on the Atlantic Coast of North America where its range extends from the Saint John River, New Brunswick, to the St. Johns River, Florida. The federal recovery plan (NMFS 1998) for the species identifies 19 distinct population segments, each defined as a river/estuarine system in which shortnose sturgeons have been captured in the generation time of the species (30 years). The population segments recognized by the recovery plan are: Saint John, Penobscot, Kennebec System (Sheepscot, Kennebec, and Androscoggin Rivers), Merrimack, Connecticut, Hudson, Delaware, Chesapeake (Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River), Cape Fear, Winyah Bay (Waccamaw, Pee Dee, and Black Rivers), Santee (Santee River and Lake Marion), Cooper, ACE Basin (Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers), Savannah, Ogeechee, Altamaha, Satilla, St. Marys, and St. Johns. As of the late 1980s, the largest concentrations were in the Saint John River (New Brunswick); Kennebec River (Maine); Hudson River (New York); Delaware River (New Jersey); Winyah Bay, Pee Dee River, and Lake Marion (South Carolina); and the Altamaha River (Georgia). The species recently reappeared in the lower Susquehanna River drainage of the upper Chesapeake Bay basin (possibly from the Delaware River via the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal) (see Burkhead and Jenkins 1991). Populations may be semidisjunct (Carter 1989). See Stone et al. (1994) for information on distribution and relative abundance in mid-Atlantic estuaries.

Number of Occurrences: 6 - 20
Number of Occurrences Comments: Twenty population segments exist (National Marine Fisheries Service, Federal Register, 17 December 1998). At least 16 populations have been identified (Kynard 1997).

Population Size: 10,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Adults are more abundant in the north than in the south (Kynard 1996). Regional information is limited because of lack of thorough investigations. Dadswell (1979) estimated 10,000 to 18,000 individuals for the Saint John River system, New Brunswick, Canada. In the Kennebec River system in Maine, total adult population may be 10,000, apparently near carrying capacity (Federal Register, 6 January 1995, p. 2071). In the mid-1990s, the adult population in the Hudson River, New York, may have been several tens of thousands (M. Bain, S. Nack, and J. Knight, Sturgeon Notes, July 1996). For recent information on Hudson River sturgeon populations, see Sturgeon Notes, a newsletter of Cornell University and the Hudson River Foundation.

The population in the Delaware River in the early 1980s was estimated to be somewhere between 6,000 and 14,000, making it one of the healthiest populations on the coast (Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, 2000, http://sites.state.pa.us/PA_Exec/Fish_Boat/novdec99/shtnosee.htm).

Viability/Integrity Comments: "Adult abundance is less than the minimum estimated viable population abundance of 1000 adults for 5 of 11 surveyed populations" (Kynard 1996).

Overall Threat Impact: High
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Decline was due mainly to damming, which cut off upriver spawning areas and altered stream flow and temperature, and water pollution. Habitat degradation remains a threat. Other factors in the decline include siltation, habitat disruption from dredging, and overharvest (Burkhead and Jenkins 1991).

Dredging of federal navigation channels can harm sturgeon populations directly by sucking fish into the dragarms and impeller pumps. The hydraulic dredging machines can also disrupt or destroy feeding and spawning areas.

The gourmet food market may be a threat (Endangered Species Technical Bulletin, 1986, XI (7):10). 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).

Some potential anthropogenic threats not mentioned above include the following. The impact of poaching is unclear; it thought to be more prevalent in northern waters, where shortnose sturgeons are more abundant and where, until recently, a legal market existed for Atlantic sturgeon). Shockwaves from explosives used in bridge construction and demolition can cause internal damage and death to fishes in the immediate proximity. The long life span and benthic predator life style predisposes the species to the effects of bioaccumulation of heavy metals, pesticides, polychlorinated aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Low oxygen levels are known to be caused by eutrophication related to pulp mill, silvicultural, agricultural, and sewer discharges. This problem is intensified in southern waters where the high summer water temperatures also result in lower dissolved oxygen levels. Power plants alter stream temperatures and flows, and shut-downs can produce anoxic water downriver. The disruption/destruction of cool thermal refuges can have a negative effect during the summer months when the average river temperature climbs above 28 C. Accidental introduction of exotic species, such as the white sturgeon (A. transmontanus), by aquarium enthusiasts could potentially threaten populations.

Shortnose sturgeons are not the main prey item of any known species. Lethal parasites are uncommon.

Short-term Trend: Decline of 10-30%
Short-term Trend Comments: In Maine, the Kennebec River has some of the best habitat for sturgeon in Maine. With removal of the Edwards Dam in 1999, sturgeon regained access to their full historic range on the river. In time, these spawning grounds may help the fish to recover (http://mainerivers.org/maine_rivers_home.htm).

In the Hudson River in New York, riverwide population estimates in the 1990s showed that the spawning population had increased substantially from that observed in the 1970s (New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Shortnose Sturgeon Fact Sheet, 2003). Apparently increased in abundance in the early 1990s in the Hudson River, New York (Sturgeon Notes, November 1993, July 1996, Cornell University).

Within the last 15 years, the population of shortnose sturgeon in the Connecticut River has slowly increased (Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, 2003, http://dep.state.ct.us/whatshap/press/2003/mf0730.htm).

Little is known about the status of any of the populations in South Carolina, including the Savannah River, one or more of the rivers flowing into St. Helena Sound (Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers), the Cooper River, the Santee River, and one or more Winyah Bay rivers (Pee Dee, Waccamaw, and Black), plus a apparently "damlocked" population in the Santee-Cooper Lake System (Lakes Marion and Moultrie and tributary rivers).

In the Savannah River, Georgia-South Carolina, low juvenile abundance indicates that recruitment has not increased despite an apparent increase in the adult population from the stocking of hatchery-reared fish during 1985-1992 (Collins et al. 2002).

The adult population in the Ogeechee River, Georgia, was around 195 and believed to be either stable or slightly decreasing in the late 1990s and early 2000s (U.S. Army Environmental Center, http://aec.army.mil/usaec/publicaffairs/update/win02/win0220.html, 2002).

Long-term Trend:  
Long-term Trend Comments: An overall decline occurred in the 1900s.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Highly vulnerable
Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Low reproductive rate restricts rate of population increase.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Estimate abundance for all rivers in range; locate spawning and wintering areas. See federal recovery plan.

Protection Needs: Improve water quality, protect spawning sites, restrict damming and dredging. Critical habitats should be identified, designated, and protected from point source and non-point source pollution, introduced species, and other anthropogenic actions. Steps should be taken to minimize the incidental capture. "Conservation efforts should correct environmental and harvest impacts, not stock cultured fish into wild populations" (Kynard 1996). Anti-poaching regulations should be strengthened and more strictly enforced.

Distribution
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Global Range: The shortnose sturgeon is found on the Atlantic Coast of North America where its range extends from the Saint John River, New Brunswick, to the St. Johns River, Florida. The federal recovery plan (NMFS 1998) for the species identifies 19 distinct population segments, each defined as a river/estuarine system in which shortnose sturgeons have been captured in the generation time of the species (30 years). The population segments recognized by the recovery plan are: Saint John, Penobscot, Kennebec System (Sheepscot, Kennebec, and Androscoggin Rivers), Merrimack, Connecticut, Hudson, Delaware, Chesapeake (Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River), Cape Fear, Winyah Bay (Waccamaw, Pee Dee, and Black Rivers), Santee (Santee River and Lake Marion), Cooper, ACE Basin (Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers), Savannah, Ogeechee, Altamaha, Satilla, St. Marys, and St. Johns. As of the late 1980s, the largest concentrations were in the Saint John River (New Brunswick); Kennebec River (Maine); Hudson River (New York); Delaware River (New Jersey); Winyah Bay, Pee Dee River, and Lake Marion (South Carolina); and the Altamaha River (Georgia). The species recently reappeared in the lower Susquehanna River drainage of the upper Chesapeake Bay basin (possibly from the Delaware River via the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal) (see Burkhead and Jenkins 1991). Populations may be semidisjunct (Carter 1989). See Stone et al. (1994) for information on distribution and relative abundance in mid-Atlantic estuaries.

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 CT, DCextirpated, DE, FL, GA, MA, MD, ME, NC, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, SC, VA
Canada NB

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CT Fairfield (09001), Hartford (09003), Middlesex (09007), New Haven (09009), New London (09011)
FL Putnam (12107), St. Johns (12109)
GA Appling (13001), Bryan (13029), Burke (13033), Camden (13039), Chatham (13051), Effingham (13103), Glynn (13127), Jeff Davis (13161), Liberty (13179), Long (13183), Mcintosh (13191), Montgomery (13209), Richmond (13245), Screven (13251), Tattnall (13267), Toombs (13279), Wayne (13305), Wheeler (13309)
MA Barnstable (25001)*, Essex (25009), Franklin (25011), Hampden (25013), Hampshire (25015)
MD Cecil (24015), Harford (24025), Kent (24029)*
NC Anson (37007)*, Beaufort (37013)*, Bertie (37015), Bladen (37017), Brunswick (37019), Camden (37029), Carteret (37031), Chowan (37041), Columbus (37047), Craven (37049)*, Currituck (37053), Dare (37055), Hyde (37095), New Hanover (37129), Onslow (37133)*, Pamlico (37137)*, Pasquotank (37139), Pender (37141), Perquimans (37143), Pitt (37147)*, Richmond (37153)*, Tyrrell (37177), Washington (37187)
NH Cheshire (33005), Rockingham (33015), Strafford (33017)
NJ Bergen (34003), Burlington (34005), Camden (34007), Cumberland (34011), Gloucester (34015), Hudson (34017), Hunterdon (34019), Mercer (34021), Monmouth (34025), Salem (34033)
NY Albany (36001), Bronx (36005), Columbia (36021), Dutchess (36027), Greene (36039), New York (36061), Orange (36071), Putnam (36079), Rensselaer (36083), Rockland (36087), Ulster (36111), Westchester (36119)
PA Bucks (42017), Philadelphia (42101)*
SC Aiken (45003), Beaufort (45013), Berkeley (45015), Calhoun (45017), Charleston (45019), Colleton (45029), Georgetown (45043), Jasper (45053), Orangeburg (45075), Sumter (45085)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Lower Penobscot (01020005), Lower Kennebec (01030003), Piscataqua-Salmon Falls (01060003)+, Merrimack (01070002)+, West (01080107)+, Middle Connecticut (01080201)+, Deerfield (01080203)+, Lower Connecticut (01080205)+, Cape Cod (01090002)+*, Narragansett (01090004)*, Quinnipiac (01100004)+, Housatonic (01100005)+
02 Hudson-Hoosic (02020003)+, 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)+, Lower Susquehanna (02050306)+, Upper Chesapeake Bay (02060001)+, Chester-Sassafras (02060002)+, Gunpowder-Patapsco (02060003)+, Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan (02070010)*, Lower Potomac (02070011), Lower Rappahannock (02080104)
03 Lower Roanoke (03010107)+, Ghowan (03010203)+, 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)+, Lower Pee Dee (03040201)+, Black (03040205)+, Waccamaw (03040206)+, Carolina Coastal-Sampit (03040207)+, Coastal Carolina (03040208)+, Lake Marion (03050111)+, Santee (03050112)+, Cooper (03050201)+, South Carolina Coastal (03050202), North Fork Edisto (03050203)+, Edisto (03050205)+, Four Hole Swamp (03050206)+, Salkehatchie (03050207)+, Broad-St. Helena (03050208), Bulls Bay (03050209)+, Middle Savannah (03060106)+, Lower Savannah (03060109)+, Lower Ogeechee (03060202)+, Canoochee (03060203)+, Ogeechee Coastal (03060204)+, Lower Oconee (03070102)+, Lower Ocmulgee (03070104)+, Altamaha (03070106)+, Satilla (03070201)+, Cumberland-St. Simons (03070203)+, St. Marys (03070204)+, Lower St. Johns (03080103)+
+ 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 fish (sturgeon) that reaches a maximum length of about one meter.
General Description: A large fish with a heterocercal tail, short shovel-shaped (bluntly V-shaped) snout (not upturned at tip), large fleshy barbels, ventral mouth, large bony scutes on the head, back, and sides (paler than adjacent skin); anal fin origin is beneath the dorsal fin origin; dark brown to black above, light brown to yellow on lower sides, white below; grows to 109 cm (Page and Burr 1991).
Diagnostic Characteristics: Differs from the green sturgeon by lacking green coloration and by having 19-22 anal rays (vs. 22-28), 22-29 gill rakers (vs. 18-20), 2 plates between the dorsal fin and caudal fulcrum (vs. 1), and black viscera (vs. white). Similar lake sturgeon has the anal fin origin behind the dorsal fin origin, has a longer caudal peduncle, scutes on back and sides the same color as the skin, 25-30 anal rays, usually 32-35 gill rakers, and 29-42 scutes along each side (22-33 in shortnose).

Atlantic sturgeon has a long, sharply V-shaped snout, two rows of preanal scutes (one row in shortnose), and white viscera (Page and Burr 1991). Although newly hatched shortnose sturgeons are larger than Atlantic sturgeons of the same age, Atlantic sturgeons older than two years are significantly larger. The largest recorded shortnose sturgeons are 1.3 meters in length. Atlantic sturgeons have been known to exceed 3 meters (Robins et al. 1986).

Reproduction Comments: Reproduction and growth characteristics vary latitudinally due to the effect of differing temperature regimes. Spawning occurs as early as February in Georgia, in April-May in the Connecticut River, as late as mid-May in New Brunswick; usually at temperatures of 9-12 C during or soon after peak flows; may begin as early as January in south. Females sexually mature in 6 years in Georgia, 6-7 years from South Carolina to New York, 12-18 years in New Brunswick; corresponding ages for males are 2-3 years, 3-5 years, and 10-11 years. The first spawning may occur 1-16 years after maturity. In the Hudson River, New York, 10-year-old individuals are about 1.5 m long, 15-year-old females are about 2 m long (K. McKown). Spawns once a year, generally at intervals of a few to several years; however, some males and females have been reported spawning in consecutive years (Dovel et al. 1992). Long-lived, may attain 50 years or more in north. See Dadswell et al. (1984) and Burkhead and Jenkins (1991).
Habitat Type: Freshwater
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Part of the population migrates upstream to spawning grounds in spring or fall (Burkhead and Jenkins 1991). Spawning adults typically travel to about river km 200 or farther upstream (Kynard 1996). In spring, spent individuals migrate downstream, passing the rest of the population moving upstream (Burkhead and Jenkins 1991).

In the Savannah River, upriver spawning migrations occurred from mid-February to mid-March at water temperatures of 9-12 C; downstream migrations began in mid-March, ended by early May; individuals migrated as much as 33 km/day (Hall et al. 1991). In the same river, juveniles tagged with acoustic transmitters were located only between rive-km 31.2 and 47.5; they used two areas very intensively (Collins et al. 2002).

In some areas some adults move upstream in fall to deep overwintering sites near spawning areas. In other areas, fall migrations to wintering areas are downstream, and some of these individuals may move short distances out into the ocean in fall and winter. Some populations make no distinct migration. Individuals from land-locked populations may have small home ranges that are occupied all year unless they migrate upstream to spawn. Juveniles are nonmigratory (Burkhead and Jenkins 1991).

Marine Habitat(s): Near shore
Estuarine Habitat(s): Bay/sound, Lagoon, River mouth/tidal river
Riverine Habitat(s): BIG RIVER, Low gradient, MEDIUM RIVER, Moderate gradient, Pool, Riffle
Lacustrine Habitat(s): Deep water, Shallow water
Palustrine Habitat(s): FORESTED WETLAND
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic
Habitat Comments: Shortnose sturgeons inhabit rivers, estuaries, and the sea (Wilk and Silverman 1976); usually they are most abundant in estuaries, generally within a few miles of land when at sea. "Adult use of salt water varies with latitude and may reflect bioenergetic adaptations to latitudinal differences between fresh and saltwater habitats for thermal and foraging suitability" (Kynard 1996). "Dam-locked" populations have been reported for the Connecticut River (only the population above Holyoke Dam reproduces successfully) and South Carolina (not verified). Shortnose sturgeons reportedly prefer deep pools with soft substrates and vegetated bottoms, but individuals may vary in preference for various water depths and substrate types (Seibel 1991).

Adults have separate summer and winter areas. In the Merrimack and Connecticut rivers, they tend to concentrate in areas where natural or artificial features cause a decrease in river flow (Kiefer and Kynard 1996). Adults may move to deeper water of lakes, lower rivers, bays, or ocean for winter. In the Savannah River, the freshwater/saltwater boundary region was used by adults and juveniles in both fall and winter (Hall et al. 1991). A later study in the Savannah River (Collins et al. 2002) found that no juveniles were recorded as far downriver as the nursery area identified by Hall et al. (1991), perhaps as a result of changes caused by harbor modifications.

Shortnose sturgeons in southern waters tend to exhibit limited distributions during the summer within habitats at the saltwater/freshwater interface (Flournoy et al. 1992, Rogers and Weber 1995a). Therefore, estuarine habitat at the salt/fresh interface constitutes critical habitat in southern river systems (Collins et al., in press).

Spawning occurs generally well upriver from summer foraging and nursery grounds. In South Carolina, spawning areas include flooded hardwood swamps along rivers. In the Savannah River, spawned in areas characterized by submerged timber, scoured sand, and a clay and gravel substrate, with depths of 6-9 m and bottom velocities averaging 82 cm/sec; a probable nursery area was about 2-5 km downriver from the freshwater/saltwater boundary and was characterized by sandy-mud and clay-mud bottom at a depth of 10-14 m (Hall et al. 1991). Spawning in the Merrimack and Connecticut rivers occurs in rubble boulder substrate (Kynard, 1997). In the Altamaha River, spawning is reported to occur exclusively near limestone outcrops (Rogers and Weber, 1995b). Generally, shortnose sturgeons spawn in sand to boulder sized substrate with low-medium water flow (0.2-1.8 m/sec). Larvae and juveniles have been reported from and may prefer deep river channels (Richmond and Kynard 1995) above the salt wedge.

Laboratory studies indicate that newly hatched larvae go through a 2-day downstream migration to riverine habitats where they remain for approximately one year (Kynard 1997). A resumption of downstream movement resumes the following spring at which time yearlings appear in samples of estuarine habitats, completing downstream migration from spawning areas. The timing of downstream movements likely varies among population segments with latitudinal variation in temperature regimes.

Juveniles are found in the saltwater/freshwater interface of a river in deep, cool channels with sand-silt substrate. They occur in the lower salinity waters of this interface in the summer (Pottle and Dadswell 1979).

Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Juveniles eat available benthic crustaceans and insects (mainly midge larvae and amphipods in Hudson River estuary). Adults in freshwater eat mollusks, crustaceans, and insect larvae, depending on availability; in estuaries, polychaete worms, crustaceans, and mollusks are the primary foods. Zebra mussel remains have been found in feces of individuals from the Hudson River (Sturgeon Notes, November 1993, Cornell University). Feeds on bottom or off plant surfaces.

Females in the Saint John River fast for 8 months before spawning, whereas males continue feeding. Southern populations tend to fast during the summer (Rogers et al. 1994)

Phenology Comments: Most activity of larvae, juveniles, and adults appears to occur at night (Richmond and Kynard 1995). May be inactive in winter or active all year.
Length: 90 centimeters
Economic Attributes
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Economic Comments: Sometimes taken by sport fishermen who do not recognize it as distinct from the Atlantic sturgeon (Matthews and Moseley 1990).
Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: 1. The population dynamics of shortnose sturgeon should be examined with regard to numerical thresholds, minimum allowable habitat, and/or maximum allowable mortality required or allowed for each population segment to be delisted from endangered or threatened status.

2. Steps should be taken to minimize the incidental capture (i.e., bycatch) of shortnose sturgeon by fishing activities.

3. Anti-poaching legislation should be strengthened and more strictly enforced.

4. Critical habitats for shortnose sturgeon should be designated and protected from point source and nonpoint source pollution, introduced species, and other anthropogenic actions, in compliance with the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

5. Breeding and stocking protocol should be developed for the purpose of reintroduction of shortnose sturgeon into areas where they have been extirpated. Active rehabilitation of habitats in these rivers will be a necessary prelude in many cases.

Species Impacts: The foraging ecology of shortnose sturgeon is not known for any portion of its range. Little information exists on the animal's food habits other than general information listed elsewhere in this document. Any attempt to describe how varying densities of shortnose sturgeon in riverine and estuarine habitats affects prey communities would be purely speculative. Likewise, the predators and competitors, other than man, of shortnose sturgeon, are unknown. It is therefore unknown how the decline of the species and any fluctuations around present population levels has affected the structuring of upper trophic levels in the aquatic ecosystems throughout the animal's historic range.
Restoration Potential: Restoration efforts have shown positive results in some areas and have yet to be employed in others.
Management Requirements: Habitat restoration may be needed in some areas. Detailed information on management progress and priorities is outlined in the recovery plan (NMFS 1998, tables 5 & 6), available from Nancy Haley, NMFS, 212 Rogers Ave., Milford, CT 06460; 203-783-4264.

Enabling fish passage at dams may be important in rebuilding populations by allowing access to historical spawning and nursery areas. At Cooper River dam, South Carolina, navigation locks that allowed passage of anadromous Alosa spp. did not facilitate passage of shortnose sturgeon; many radio-tagged sturgeons entered the lock, but none passed from the lock into the upstream lake (Cooke et al. 2002).

Monitoring Requirements: Refer to NMFS (1998, tables 5 & 6). Also, National Marine Fisheries Service is in the process of developing a sampling protocol, which will specify the minimum sampling requirements to determine presence or absence of shortnose sturgeons in a river system. The protocol and the recovery plan will together constitute a research, monitoring, and management agenda.
Management Research Needs: Investigate methods for culture and restocking; study population genetics; document population dynamics and determine management implications. See recovery plan (NMFS 1998).
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: 29Dec2010
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G., T. Mabee, C. Sahley, and F. Dirrigl, Jr.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 23Dec2004
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G., G. Rogers, and A. Turano

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

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References for Watershed Distribution Map
  • Gilbert, C. R. 1989. Species profiles: life histories and environmental requirements of coastal fishes and invertebrates (Mid-Atlantic Bight) Atlantic and shortnose sturgeons. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Report. 82(11.22). U.S Army Corps of Engineers TR EL-82-4. 28 pp.

  • Houston, R., K. Chadbourne, S. Lary and B. Charry. 2007. Geographic Distribution of Diadromous Fish in Maine [CD-ROM v1.0]. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Maine Audubon Society, Falmouth, Maine.

  • Marcy, B. C., Jr., D. E. Fletcher, F. D. Martin, M. H. Paller, and M.J.M. Reichert. 2005. Fishes of the middle Savannah River basin. University of Georgia Press, Athens. xiv + 460 pp.

  • State Natural Heritage Data Centers. 1996a. Aggregated element occurrence data from all U.S. state natural heritage programs, including the Tennessee Valley Authority, Navajo Nation and the District of Columbia. Science Division, The Nature Conservancy.

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