Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) is one of the largest and longest-lived anadromous fish in North America. Anadromous fish are born in fresh water, but spend majority of their lives in the ocean, returning to fresh water only to spawn. In New York, mature males immigrate into the Hudson River in early spring, and females follow approximately one month later. After spawning, the adults return to the Atlantic Ocean while juvenile sturgeon remain in the estuary for two to six years before moving to the ocean to mature. Visit the Ecology of Sturgeon webpage for additional information.
The Atlantic sturgeon was once a major commercial fishery. This fishery was so productive that Atlantic sturgeon were once referred to as "Albany beef" as they were a common source of protein throughout the Hudson Valley. Unfortunately, due to overfishing and their susceptibility to getting caught as bycatch in other fisheries, their populations collapsed and have been slow to recover. The Atlantic sturgeon fishery was shut down in 1998 after an unsuccessful attempt to restore the population. In 2012, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Fisheries listed the Atlantic sturgeon as endangered. Even though the Atlantic sturgeon is no longer fished, and possession is illegal, they are still vulnerable to many threats such as climate change, environmental events, and a variety of human activities that result in population impacts.
Atlantic Sturgeon Salvage Program
The Atlantic Sturgeon Salvage Program is a network run by NOAA to help conserve Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon. In New York State, NYSDEC Marine Protected Resources and Hudson River Fisheries Unit work together to effectively protect this endangered species in both its marine and freshwater habitats. Information regarding washed up sturgeons is sent to NOAA, Fisheries and they may provide a unique identification number for that particular sturgeon. We rely on assistance from the general public to help conserve this endangered species and encourage individuals to report any sturgeon they may come across.
If you encounter a live or dead sturgeon in the Hudson River region, please notify the NYSDEC by calling 845-256-3073 (Amanda Higgs) or email us using the link on the right side of the screen. If you encounter an Atlantic sturgeon in ocean habitats, including Long Island Sound, please notify the NYSDEC by calling 631-444-0462 (Lisa Bonacci). When reporting, please provide the following information:
- Specify the location of the fish carcass
- Note the condition of the fish - really rotted or fresh kill
- Identify any signs of trauma, and if present, where on the fish
- Estimate the total length of the carcass (measure from nose to tip of upper tail [caudal] fin) or whatever is left of the carcass
- Describe any external tags found on the fish - usually a yellow streamer at or near the base of the dorsal fin; a second external mark can be a missing left pelvic fin clip
- Take a picture of the entire fish and any injury and include a picture of the head and mouth to verify the species
Leave the fish where you found it. Possession of Atlantic or shortnose sturgeon is prohibited!
Please send information and pictures to the NYSDEC mailbox (link on the right).
The commercial fishery was closed in 1996 and will be closed for at least 40 years. Possession of Atlantic sturgeon is prohibited.
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is responsible for the cooperative interstate management of Atlantic sturgeon. During 1993 through 1995, New York regulated the Atlantic sturgeon fishery with size limits, seasons, area closures, and as more data became available, it became apparent that the Hudson River stock was being overfished. New York implemented a harvest moratorium in 1996. New Jersey followed with a zero quota in the same year. In 1998, the ASMFC adopted Amendment 1 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Sturgeon. This amendment banned possession of Atlantic sturgeon in all U.S. Atlantic coastal states. It also recommended that states with spawning populations sample adults every five years and identify bycatch losses in state waters. In 2012, the Hudson River stock was listed as an endangered species as part of the NY Bight Distinct Population Segment. A benchmark stock assessment is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2017.
Hudson River Fisheries Unit, Division of Marine Resources and other state and local agencies work cooperatively to gather information about the Atlantic sturgeon through a variety of programs and surveys. To read more about long term monitoring and research being done by the NYSDEC to better conserve the Atlantic sturgeon, visit the pages below.