Adult Atlantic Sturgeon
Reporting Dead Sturgeon
If you see a dead sturgeon floating or on the shore of the Hudson River, please notify DEC by calling 845-256-3073 (Amanda Higgs). We also would like the following information:
- Specify the location of 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; include a picture of the head and mouth to verify the species.
Leave the fish where you found it. Possession of Atlantic sturgeon is prohibited!
Please send information and pictures to the Hudson River Fisheries Unit mailbox (link on the right).
Atlantic sturgeon of the Hudson River Estuary have supported some level of subsistence or commercial fishing since colonial times. Reported commercial landings of Atlantic sturgeon are available for New York State from 1880 through 1995. Until about 1980, most of the landings came from the Hudson River. Highest annual landings of the time series (231,000 kg) occurred in 1898. Landings quickly dropped to 15,000 kg or less per year and remained at low levels through the early 1980's. In 1985, South Carolina closed one of the few active fisheries open in the southern states. Market demand remained high and effort and harvest increased substantially in New York and New Jersey. Greatest increase in landings was in the near shore ocean along Long Island and the New Jersey coast.
In 1990, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) adopted an interstate fishery management plan for Atlantic sturgeon. States with open fisheries began to monitor harvest. In addition, New York initiated population modeling to determine acceptable levels of harvest from the Hudson River stock. In 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 over fished. NY implemented a harvest moratorium in 1996. New Jersey followed with a zero quota in the same year. In 1998, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission adopted Amendment 1 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Sturgeon. This amendment banned possession of Atlantic sturgeon in all US Atlantic coastal states. It also recommended that states with spawning populations sample adults every five years and identify bycatch losses in state waters.
Spawning locations of Atlantic sturgeon within the Hudson River Estuary remain poorly delineated. Several authors have investigated spawning activity of Atlantic sturgeon within the estuary, but have drawn differing conclusions about spawning location. We hope to learn more about these locations using the sonic tagged fish.
Juvenile Atlantic sturgeon remain within the estuary between two and eight years. When juveniles begin to emigrate they travel widely along the Atlantic coast and its estuaries. However, the stock identification of these fish is poorly understood. We also need a better understanding of the migratory behavior, distribution, habitat needs of mature Atlantic sturgeon after leaving fresh-water systems to effectively manage the fish.
Although harvest of Atlantic sturgeon from the Hudson River Estuary has ended, threats to stock recovery continue. Within the estuary, habitat disturbance and alteration from navigation dredging and occasional petroleum spills pose potential threats to spawning. The NYSDEC regulates dredging and attempts to provide special protection from spills, but these efforts are hampered by incomplete information on specific timing and location of spawning and nursery areas. Within the ocean, mature Atlantic sturgeon are potentially affected by dredge spoil dumping, and bycatch in existing fisheries. Consequences of these losses to a specific stock such as that from the Hudson are difficult to determine because stock specific ocean migration patterns are not completely understood and thus bycatch losses cannot be assigned to stock.
Adult Capturing and Tagging
As recommended by ASMFC, we started a project in collaboration with Hudson River Estuary Program, USFWS, Pew Institute, Hudson River Foundation, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The plan was to catch the fish in the lower river and which would allow us to follow them to their spawning areas. We conduct a small scale sampling program each year in the late spring/ early summer.
The objective of this study is to track adult Atlantic sturgeon entering the Hudson River in order to locate spawning grounds. Tasks to accomplish include:
(1) capture of pre-spawning adult Atlantic sturgeon in the Hudson River estuary;
(2) tagging all unmarked fish
|Year||# caught||# tagged with sonic tags||# tagged with PAT tags|
*no longer in use
2006 - 2015
- We caught and tagged two fish in Catskill.
- Two sonic tags were attached externally using a 400 lb. monofilament loop.
- Using a new technique in 2007, we were able to intercept fish in Haverstraw Bay.
- We discovered a new possible spawning area near Diamond Reef.
- One recapture was from a male fish tagged as a juvenile and had returned to spawn as an adult 11 years later.
- Data collected by the PAT tag is revealing that Hudson Atlantic sturgeon use the entire Atlantic coast from the Bay of Fundy to Georgia.
- We recaptured a male fish that was stocked as a 3" fish in 1994. The fish was captured on the spawning grounds in Hyde Park.
- Working closely with researchers from Delaware State University, we are learning about new areas to sample and beginning to understand how fish move within the spawning area near Hyde Park.
Photo courtesy of Daniel Erickson
We are starting to see habitat usage trends from the data we have in house. The batteries are dead and a draft report has been written. Check back in the future for more updates.
Hudson River Estuary Program and our efforts to protect this important estuary.
More about Adult Atlantic Sturgeon:
- Adult Atlantic sturgeon Habitat Preference - Graph describes the habitat that adult Atlantic sturgeon prefer.