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Atlantic Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrhynchus)

A collection of links and pages related to the Atlantic Sturgeon and related recovery efforts.


Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus

Atlantic sturgeon illustration.

  • The anadromous Atlantic sturgeon is among the oldest fish species in the world. This species is a North American member of the Acipenseridae family, and when mature, the Atlantic sturgeon travels from the ocean upstream in rivers to spawn. Female sturgeon lay eggs about every six years, and can lay up to about 8 million eggs in a single year. Juveniles spend their first two to six years of age in fresh and brackish water before moving to the ocean. Atlantic sturgeon can reach 60 years of age, 15 feet in length, and 800 pounds in weight.


  • Atlantic sturgeon are found on the east coast of North America and range from New Brunswick, Canada, down to the eastern coast of Florida. When the first settlers came to North America, the Atlantic sturgeon was in great abundance. Their populations have since declined due to human factors, such as overfishing and water pollution.

History of the Fishery

  • Historically, Native American populations in the eastern United States harvested Atlantic sturgeon for food using traps, weirs, snares, and spears. Following European colonization, there was a commercial fishery for Atlantic sturgeon in Maine from the 1600s to the 1800s on the Kennebec and Androscoggin Rivers. However, overfishing of the species caused commercial harvest to cease by the early 1900s.

Management, Listing Status, and Critical Habitat Designation

  • The Atlantic sturgeon is managed and protected under a Fishery Management Plan implemented by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).  The Gulf of Maine population segment is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Throughout the rest of its range, the Atlantic sturgeon is considered endangered and is locally extirpated in some of its original habitats.
  • The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), proposed to designate critical habitat for the Gulf of Maine, New York Bight, and Chesapeake Bay Distinct Population Segments (DPSs) of Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus) on June 3, 2016. The specific areas proposed for designation include approximately 244 kilometers (152 miles) of aquatic habitat in rivers in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts for the Gulf of Maine DPS, approximately 547 kilometers (340 miles) of aquatic habitat in rivers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware for the New York Bight DPS, and approximately 729 kilometers (453 miles) of aquatic habitat in rivers in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia for the Chesapeake Bay DPS of Atlantic sturgeon. The deadline for publishing the final rule designating critical habitat for the Atlantic sturgeon DPSs listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA is August 17, 2017. When published, the rule will be posted on their web page at

Current Recovery Efforts

  •  In 2009, the Atlantic sturgeon was petitioned to be listed under the ESA. Since 1998, there has been a moratorium on fishing for Atlantic sturgeon throughout its entire range. In addition, efforts are in place to preserve and restore habitat as well as explore breeding and stocking efforts. Dam removals and water quality improvements can contribute to improved populations. Research throughout its range aims to document Atlantic sturgeon movements and other habits to better understand the species.

References, Links, and Useful Documents

Fernandes, Stephen J., Gayle Barbin Zydlewski, Joseph D. Zydlewski, Gail S. Wippelhauser, and Michael T. Kinnison. 2010. Seasonal Distribution and Movements of Shortnose Sturgeon and Atlantic Sturgeon in the Penobscot River Estuary, Maine. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society.

Holzkamm, Tim E., and Leo G. Waisberg. "Native American Utilization of Sturgeon". in Sturgeons and Paddlefish of North America, ed. Greg T.O LeBreton, F. William H. Beamish, R. Scott McKinley (Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2004),22-39.

Squiers, T., M. Smith, and L. Flagg. 1981. Distribution and abundance of shortnose and   Atlantic sturgeon in the Kennebec River estuary. Maine Department of Marine Resources, Augusta Maine.


Prepared by: 

Alex Cuadros

University of Maine

American Fisheries Society Student Subunit

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