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Conserving the Nature of America


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Gulf Sturgeon



Sturgeon Detection Project

Developing a low-cost, side scan sonar based approach to monitoring the distribution and abundance of Gulf sturgeon during freshwater residency

During summer, adult Gulf sturgeon aggregate and occupy discrete “resting” areas within Gulf rivers. These areas are traditionally targeted for capture and tagging of sturgeon to monitor abundance, however these methods are time intensive, costly, and are a potential source of stress and injury to the fish. The overarching goal is this 2-part study is to evaluate the use of side scan sonar as a non-invasive tool for mapping and quantifying adult Gulf sturgeon during the summer resting period, and to develop specific recommendations for the standardized implementation of this technology for this purpose. Adult Gulf sturgeon exhibit several characteristics (namely their massive size and hard outer surface) that render them good targets for sonar imaging. With a trained eye, large fish can be identified, counted, and mapped from sonar imagery, providing a rapid and low-cost alternative to monitoring these animals. One part of this study involves fully evaluating the scientific validity of the approach as a monitoring tool, and a second involves a performance evaluation of 2 sonar systems at detecting sturgeon; one the recreational-grade Humminbird® Side Imaging system (~$3,000) and another, the EdgeTech 4125 side scan system (~35,000).

Collaborators: Jared Flowers (North Carolina State University), Dewayne Fox and Naeem Willet (Delaware State University), Joe Hightower (US Geologic Survey)

Hummingbird Sturgeon   Edge Tech Sturgeon





Last updated: April 17, 2018