The Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus) is a long-lived, estuarine dependent, anadromous fish. Atlantic sturgeon can grow to approximately 14 feet long and can weigh up to 800 lbs. 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. Atlantic sturgeon are similarin appearance to shortnose sturgeon, but can be distinguished by their larger size, smaller mouth, different snout shape, and scutes. Atlantic sturgeon have been aged to 60 years.
Atlantic sturgeon are anadromous; adults spawn in freshwater in the spring and early summer and migrate into estuarine and marine waters where they spend most of their lives. In some southern rivers a fall spawning migration may also occur. They spawn in moderately flowing water in deep parts of large rivers. Sturgeon eggs are highly adhesive and usually are deposited on hard surfaces (e.g., cobble).
Historically, Atlantic sturgeon sightings have been reported from Hamilton Inlet, Labrador, south to the St. Johns River, Florida. Overharvest led to wide-spread declines in abundance. The origin of the fishery dates back to colonial times. Since a 1998 harvest moratorium there have been few surveys to assess status and abundance. "Bycatch" of sturgeon in fisheries targeting other species is a current threat in the ocean environment. In their estuarine and freshwater habitats, Atlantic sturgeon face additional threats, including habitat degradation and loss from various human activities such as dredging, dams, water withdrawals, and other development.
Final Rule Fact Sheets
The Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desoto) is a sub-species of the Atlantic sturgeon that presently range from Lake Pontchartrain and the Pearl River system in Louisiana and Mississippi east to the Suwannee River in Florida. Gulf sturgeon are nearly cylindrical fish with an extended snout, vertical mouth, 5 rows of scutes, 4 chin barbells and a heterocercal caudal fin (upper lobe is longer than lower). Adults range from 6-8 feet in length and weigh up to 200 pounds; females grow larger than males. Gulf sturgeon are anadromous fish; they spawn in freshwater then migrate to feed and grow in the estuarine/marine habitats.
Gulf sturgeon were listed as threatened in 1991 after their stocks were greatly reduced or extirpated throughout much of their historic range by overfishing, dam construction, and habitat degradation. Gulf sturgeon are jointly managed by NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
2010 Sturgeon Surgery Workshop
The shorntose sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum) is the smallest of the three sturgeon species that occur in eastern North America: they attain a maximum length of about 6 feet, and a weight of about 55 lbs. Adults are often confused with the similar-sized juvenile Atlantic sturgeon that historically co-occurred in the lower mainstem rivers of major basins along the Atlantic coast. The geographic range of the shortnose sturgeon is from the Saint John River, New Brunswick, Canada to the St. Johns River, Florida.
Shortnose sturgeon migrate seasonally between upstream freshwater spawning habitat and downstream foraging mesohaline areas within the river based on water temperature, flow and salinity cues. Shortnose sturgeon are best described as freshwater amphidromous because they rarely leave their natal rivers. Shortnose sturgeon are benthic carnivores throughout their life; they feed opportunistically on benthic insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and polychaetes.
Shortnose sturgeon were originally listed as an endangered species in 1967 under the Endangered Species Preservation Act. Shortnose sturgeon continued to meet the listing criteria as “endangered” under subsequent definitions specified in the 1969 Endangered Species Conservation Act and remained on the list with the inauguration of the ESA in 1973. NMFS assumed jurisdiction for shortnose sturgeon in 1974. The shortnose sturgeon currently remains listed as an endangered species throughout all of its range along the east coast of the United States.