Sixth Annual Long Island Natural History Conference















Atlantic Sturgeon: Life History, Management, Research
Kim McKown, NYSDEC, Marine Invertebrate and Protected Resources Unit Leader.

Atlantic sturgeon is one of the largest fish on the East Coast, long lived and slow to mature.  They range from the St. Johns River in Florida to the St. Lawrence River in Canada.  Longevity and age of maturation varies by latitude with shorter life span and younger maturation occurring in the south and longer life span and late maturation in the north.  They are benthic feeders and generally feed on crustaceans, worms and shellfish.  They are anadromous and adults return to fresh water in the spring to spawn.  Early life stages remain in fresh water while juveniles through adults spend much of their life in estuarine and marine waters.

Fisheries for sturgeon have occurred since pre-colonial times.  Commercial harvest records indicate stocks were overfished during the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. Landings declined and remained at low levels.  The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) implemented the Atlantic Sturgeon Fishery Management Plan in 1990.  Due to population concerns the ASMFC established a harvest moratorium in 1998. 

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) completed a status review in 2007 that identified 5 distinct population segments (DPSs) along the Atlantic Coast.  In 2012 the NMFS declared the South Atlantic, Carolina, Chesapeake Bay and New York Bight DPSs endangered and the Gulf of Maine DPS threatened. Habitat loss and bycatch in other fisheries are concerns.

A number of research and monitoring programs were established to collect information on Atlantic sturgeon since ASMFC established the moratorium in 1998.  Prior to 2004, New York relied on information on Atlantic sturgeon captured in Hudson River Power Generators monitoring programs. New York established a juvenile monitoring program in the Hudson River in 2004.   In addition, a number of conventional and acoustic tagging programs have been conducted in river, estuarine, and marine waters that have collected information on movements, habitat use and survival throughout their range, including the Hudson River and ocean waters of New York.