Department of Environmental Conservation

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Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) is one of the largest and longest-lived anadromous fish in North America. Anadromous fish are born in fresh water, but spend majority of their lives in the ocean, returning to fresh water only to spawn. In New York, mature males immigrate into the Hudson River in early spring, and females follow approximately one month later. After spawning, the adults return to the Atlantic Ocean while juvenile sturgeon remain in the estuary for two to six years before moving to the ocean to mature.

The Atlantic sturgeon was once a major commercial fishery. This 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. Unfortunately, due to overfishing and their susceptibility to getting caught as bycatch in other fisheries, their populations collapsed and have been slow to recover. The Atlantic sturgeon fishery was shut down in 1998 after an unsuccessful attempt to restore the population. In 2012, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries (leaves DEC’s website), listed the Atlantic sturgeon as endangered. Even though the Atlantic sturgeon is no longer fished, and possession is illegal, they are still vulnerable to many threats such as bycatch, climate change, environmental events, and a variety of human activities that result in population impacts.

Management

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) (link leaves DEC’s website) is responsible for the cooperative interstate management of Atlantic sturgeon. 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 (PDF; link leaves DEC’s website) was completed in the fall of 2017 and concluded all coastwide Atlantic sturgeon stocks remain depleted relative to historical levels.

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Hudson River Fisheries Unit, Division of Marine Resources and other state and local agencies work cooperatively to gather information about the Atlantic sturgeon through a variety of programs and surveys. To read more about long term monitoring and research being done by the DEC to better conserve the Atlantic sturgeon, visit the pages below.

Atlantic Sturgeon Salvage Program

The Atlantic Sturgeon Salvage Program is a network run by NOAA to help conserve Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon. In New York State, DEC Marine Protected Resources and Hudson River Fisheries Unit work together to effectively protect this endangered species in both its marine and freshwater habitats. Information regarding washed up sturgeons is sent to NOAA Fisheries and they may provide a unique identification number for that particular sturgeon. We rely on assistance from the general public to help conserve this endangered species and encourage individuals to report any sturgeon they may come across.

Reporting Dead Sturgeon

Report observations of dead sturgeon to DEC’s Marine Life Incident Report online survey. For questions or more information about fish kills, contact fishkillmarine@dec.ny.gov or call 631-444-0714 for marine waters or 845-256-3199 on the Hudson River.

For more information on sturgeon in the Hudson River region, contact DEC by calling 845-256-3073 or emailing HudsonRiverFish@dec.ny.gov.

When reporting, please provide the following information:
  • Specify the location of the fish carcass. Please be as specific as possible and provide coordinates, if possible.
  • 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 photograph of the entire fish and any injury and include a picture of the head and mouth to verify the species.
  • Send all information and pictures to the DEC email above.
  • Do not handle the fish, leave it where you found it – possession of Atlantic or shortnose sturgeon is prohibited.
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More about Atlantic Sturgeon:

  • Atlantic Sturgeon in the Marine Environment – What NYSDEC is doing to help conserve sturgeon in the Marine Environment
  • Atlantic Sturgeon in the Hudson River Region – What NYSDEC is doing to help conserve sturgeon in the Hudson River Region (Long-term monitoring and additional research).
  • Juvenile Atlantic Sturgeon Index – Juvenile Atlantic sturgeon abundance index
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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>