Atlantic Sturgeon
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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygiiolive brown
Atlantic Sturgeon - The Final Frontier
Atlantic Sturgeon - The Final Frontier

Order: Acipenseriformes
Family: Acipenseridae
Genus: Acipenser
Species: oxyrinchus
Subspecies: oxyrinchus

The Atlantic sturgeon is a long-lived fish that spends the majority of its life in an estuarine environment. This species is anadromous, meaning that adults normally reside in an estuary and travel to bodies of freshwater to spawn. Some sturgeon have been found to be around 60 years old and are able to live longer. Adults can mature upwards of 14 feet in length and weigh up to 800 pounds. The dorsal portion of the Atlantic sturgeon is usually bluish-black or olive brown in color with pale sides and a white underbelly. Atlantic sturgeon also possess five rows of horn-like plates called “scutes” that lie on their backs.

Sturgeon typically eat a variety of bottom-dwelling aquatic organisms such as mollusks, worms, snails, small fish, and other invertebrates.

Atlantic sturgeon
Atlantic sturgeon
Atlantic sturgeon populations have great genetic diversity. Preferred spawning grounds for sturgeon is in the flowing water between the salt front and fall line of large freshwater rivers. Male sturgeon will spawn at 1 to 5 year intervals while females spawn every 2 to 5 years. Adult sturgeon begin to migrate into upriver to freshwater environments in the springtime. The females leave the freshwater rivers after 4 to 6 weeks while the male sturgeon will remain in the rivers until the fall season.

One of the biggest threats to the Atlantic sturgeon is called by-catch, or being caught accidentally by people fishing for other species. Habitat loss and impediment also play a large role in causing the low numbers of Atlantic sturgeon. Many of the habitat impediments, such as dams and locks prevent sturgeon from being able to spawn as they can no longer swim to their spawning grounds.

sturgeon range
sturgeon range

Atlantic sturgeon population is estimated to be around 10,000 fish and has been increasing in recent years. The populations are managed under a plan created by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) after coordinating with state regulations. The goal of the ASMFC is to “restore the commercial fishery levels to 10 percent of the 1890 landings”. There is also currently a size minimum of 7 feet for a sturgeon to be kept if caught by fishermen. A research program has also been implemented to evaluate the stock status of the Atlantic sturgeon.