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Rescuing a Hudson River icon
October 09, 2010
Albany Times Union

By Brian Nearing

Dr. Ellen Pikitch was interviewed for the following story:

ALBANY -- The disappearing Atlantic sturgeon, a massive Hudson River fish dating back to the dinosaurs, range the ocean from Nova Scotia to Georgia, according to research that could helps support federal efforts to stem the sturgeons' continuing decline.

The four-year study, which involved the state Department of Environmental Conservation, relied on satellite tags applied to 23 fish in the Hudson during 2006 and 2007 to track their journeys after departing spring spawning areas.

Results show the fish, now being considered for federal endangered species protection, are wide-ranging enough that they could be beyond no-fish zones created in the late 1990s under a failing effort to halt the species' decline, said Ellen Pikitch, executive director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University.

"This study tells us to understand sturgeon and threats to it, we need to know where to focus our efforts from a geographic standpoint," said Pikitch. "If there need to be restrictions to protect sturgeon, there is a chance to make them fine scale, and not spread out over the Atlantic."

In the Hudson, spawning starts in April and can last into late summer, when females return to the sea. Male sturgeons linger in the river until October.

Knowing where sturgeon go after is important because the fish spend the first 20 or so years of life in the Atlantic before becoming sexually mature and returning to rivers to spawn.

This could help tighten rules to protect the fish from perils like bycatch, when sturgeon are accidentally caught by commercial fishing vessels in pursuit of legal fish.

"We need to minimize the source of mortality that humans impose," said Pikitch. "No fishing, reduce bycatch, keep pollution away from where they gather and restore habitat."

Covered with leathery, sandpaper-like brown-green skin covered a platelike strictures, sturgeon have been on earth for about 200 million years.

The fish can live to be up to 60 years old or more, reach 14 feet long and weigh 800 pounds.

Commercial sturgeon fishing, once a staple of the Hudson for more than a century, has been banned in the river and along the East Coast for more than a decade after sturgeon numbers began to plummet.

This week, the federal National Marine Fisheries Service announced the sturgeon should be added to the endangered species list.

Article can be found at:

Study Provides Data That Can Inform Atlantic Sturgeon Recovery Efforts

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