October 29, 1997

Mary Colligan 508-281-9116 (NMFS)

Diana Weaver 413-253-8329 (FWS)

Diana Hawkins 404-679-7289 (FWS)



The National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will seek additional information to determine whether the Atlantic sturgeon qualifies for Endangered Species Act protection, according to regional managers for the Services in the Northeast in a recent announcement. The decision comes after evaluating a petition requesting that the Services provide protection under the Act. The petition finding was published in the October 17, 1997 "Federal Register."

"We want to assure that we have all available information in order to make a decision on whether the species faces the threat of extinction," said Andrew A. Rosenberg, northeast regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Ronald E. Lambertson, northeast regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, agreed, saying, "We are required to carefully evaluate all data that will either support or reject the request to protect the species."

Although the petition, from the Biodiversity Legal Foundation of Boulder, Colo., requested protection for Atlantic sturgeon where it continues to exist in the United States, the Services have decided to assess the species' status throughout its historic range, from Hamilton Inlet, Labrador, Canada, south to the St. Lucie River, Florida.

The Services will review the best available scientific data on the Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus), which lives in the western North Atlantic from Labrador to Florida. All interested parties are encouraged to provide information for the status review, including:

  1. current and historic abundance and distribution of Atlantic sturgeon;
  2. existence and viability of reproducing populations;
  3. threats to the species and its habitat (fresh, estuarine, and marine);
  4. ongoing efforts to protect Atlantic sturgeon and their habitat; and
  5. whether or not any population is threatened or endangered based upon the listing criteria specified in the Endangered Species Act.

Pertinent information should be sent by December 16 to:

Mary Colligan, Habitat and Protected Resources Division
National Marine Fisheries Service
One Blackburn Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930

Atlantic sturgeon may live as long as 60 years, reach lengths up to 14 feet and weigh more than 800 pounds. They are distinguished by armor-like plates and a long, protruding snout. Sturgeons eat a wide variety of bottom-dwelling organisms such as mollusks, filtering quantities of mud along with their food. They spawn in flowing fresh or estuarine waters with hard bottoms. After hatching, juveniles may remain in the fresh or estuarine waters for several years before they swim seaward to grow to maturity and join the adult migration, which can reach many miles away from their home rivers.

Commercial harvest of Atlantic sturgeon reached approximately 7 million pounds annually by the end of the 19th century. Coastwide landings fell to fewer than 100,000 pounds in 1994. Currently, most states in the species' range have banned harvest and the rest report no landings.


Release #: R97- 94

1997 News Releases

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