Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) is one of the largest and longest-lived anadromous fish in North America. In the Hudson River, mature males immigrate into the river in early spring followed by females approximately a month later. After spawning, the adults return to the Atlantic Ocean while juvenile sturgeon remain in the estuary for 2 to 6 years before emigrating to the ocean to mature. These large fish have been an important fishery in the Hudson River since colonial times. Historically, the 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. However, mainly due to overfishing, the stock has declined over time ultimately leading to the closure of the fishery and their listing as a federally endangered species.
Reporting Dead Sturgeon
- 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 Hudson River Fisheries Unit 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 sturgeon are managed through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). 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 from New York State from 1880 through 1995. 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.
Long-Term Monitoring Programs
Juvenile Atlantic Sturgeon Monitoring
The life history of Atlantic sturgeon makes monitoring of population trends through time difficult. In 2003-2005, the NYSDEC and USFWS collaborated to develop a method to track changes in abundance of juvenile Atlantic sturgeon over time. In 2006, the DEC and Hudson River Estuary Program began using the developed sampling program. Anchored gill nets (stretch mesh sizes of 3", 4", 5") are set at predetermined sites. Captured Atlantic sturgeon are weighed (nearest gram), measured (nearest mm, TL and FL) and double tagged. If a passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag is not present, one is implanted.
In initial attempts to calculate the annual gill net survey index, survey catches seem to be affected by varying environmental conditions, including water temperature, salinity and distance to salt front. Future models to calculate relative abundance will incorporate this environmental conditions.
Adult Atlantic Sturgeon Monitoring
To learn more about what returns to the river every year to spawn, NYSDEC samples the spawning area near Hyde Park in June (2006-present) to sample the adult fish that have returned to the river to spawn. Data are collected on length, weight and sex. A PIT tag is implanted if the fish doesn't have one.
Receiver Array Maintenance
In cooperation with other researchers along the coast, NYSDEC maintains a network of receivers throughout the Hudson River. The receivers detect sonic tagged fish tagged along the coast as well as within the Hudson River. The Atlantic Coast Cooperative Network (leaves DEC's website) allows for data sharing along the coast on all species of tagged fishes. Data from other researchers' fish are sent to the Atlantic Coast Cooperative Network providing data free of charge and the same is done for NYSDEC tagged fish.
Sonic and satellite tagging
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 locations. Thirty fish were tagged with sonic tags to learn more about spawning locations and movement while in the river.
To learn more about migration in the ocean and congregation areas along the coast, fish were tagged with pop-off satellite tags. Data were stored and at the programmed date, the tag came to the surface and transmitted the data to NYSDEC. Learn more about satellite tagging. (leaves DEC's website).
If you have questions or would like additional information about anything you see on this page, please contact us using the email on the right.
More about Atlantic Sturgeon:
- Juvenile Atlantic Sturgeon Index - Juvenile Atlantic sturgeon abundance index