DEC Counting Young Atlantic Sturgeon

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
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Hudson RiverNet
News from the Hudson River Estuary Program

Fisheries biologists pull in a gill net with a juvenile sturgeon.

Since 2003, fish biologists in DEC's Hudson and Delaware Marine Fisheries unit have been studying the population, life cycle, and habitats of the endangered Atlantic sturgeon in order to manage and conserve this signature species.

Sturgeon spawned in the Hudson spend one to six years in the river before they migrate to the ocean. Annual counting and tagging of these young sturgeon help determine how the relative abundance is changing over time. By analyzing several years worth of catch data, biologists can begin to see trends in the Hudson River stock. Is it stable? Increasing? Decreasing?

The Juvenile Atlantic Sturgeon takes place in March through early May in Haverstraw Bay, an overwintering area for these young fish. Research shows the combination of soft, river-bottom sediments and deeper water (more than 20-feet) is ideal for juvenile Atlantic sturgeon.

Fisheries staff use anchored gill nets to catch the sturgeon. The sturgeon are weighed, measured for length, and examined for previous tags. A small sample is taken from each fish for genetic and age analysies. Untagged fish are tagged under the dorsal fin with a Passive Integrated Transponder or PIT tag. This tag is similar to a microchip put in pets and is about the size of a grain of rice.

A marine fisheries biologist measures a juvenile sturgeon netted during the annual monitoring.

At every net, biologists also measure water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and salinity. Since the start of the program in 2004, standardized monitoring indicates the abundance of juvenile Hudson River Atlantic sturgeon has increased over time. Additional years of monitoring will help establish recovery targets for the species as a whole.

Watch the video: Atlantic Sturgeon Research on the Hudson River