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Atlantic Sturgeon

Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus

Description from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

“The Atlantic sturgeon is a long-lived, estuarine dependent, anadromous fish. Atlantic sturgeon can grow to approximately 14 feet (4.3 m) long and can weigh up to 800 lbs (370 kg). They are bluish-black or olive brown dorsally (on their back) with paler sides and a white belly. They have five major rows of dermal "scutes". They are distinguished by armor-like plates and a long protruding snout that is ventrally located, with four barbels crossing in front.

“Atlantic sturgeon have been aged to 60 years. There is generally faster growth and earlier age at maturation in more southern populations. For example, Atlantic sturgeon mature in South Carolina rivers at 5 to 19 years of age, in the Hudson River at 11 to 21 years, and in the Saint Lawrence River at 22 to 34 years.

The Atlantic sturgeon has two subspecies — one simply designated the Atlantic sturgeon that populates eastern coastal waters; the second, designated the Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi), populates the Gulf coast rivers from Tampa to the Mississippi. The Gulf Sturgeon was listed as threatened in 1991. This nomination treats only Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus.

“Spawning adults migrate upriver in spring, beginning in February-March in the south, April-May in the mid-Atlantic, and May-June in Canadian waters. In some areas, a small spawning migration may also occur in the fall. Spawning occurs in flowing water between the salt front and fall line of large rivers. Atlantic sturgeon spawning intervals range from 1 to 5 years for males and 2 to 5 years for females. Fecundity of female Atlantic sturgeon is correlated with age and body size and ranges from 400,000 to 8 million eggs. The average age at which 50% of maximum lifetime egg production is achieved is estimated to be 29 years, which is approximately 3 to 10 times older than for other bony fish species.

“Following spawning, males may remain in the river or lower estuary until the fall; females typically exit the rivers within four to six weeks. Juveniles move downstream and inhabit brackish waters for a few months and when they reach a size of about 30 to 36 inches (76-92 cm) they move into nearshore coastal waters. Tagging data indicate that these immature Atlantic sturgeon travel widely once they emigrate from their natal (birth) rivers.

“Atlantic sturgeon are benthic feeders and typically forage on invertebrates (e.g. crustaceans, worms, mollusks).

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