NOAA Fisheries Designates Critical Habitat for Atlantic Sturgeon


The critical habitat designation will require federal agencies to consult NOAA Fisheries if they operate or fund activities that may affect designated critical habitat in more than 3,968 miles of important coastal river habitat from Maine to Florida. Atlantic sturgeon was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2012 and is comprised of the threatened Gulf of Maine distinct population segment and the endangered New York Bight, Chesapeake Bay, Carolina, and South Atlantic distinct population segments.

Atlantic sturgeon are anadromous and use coastal and estuarine waters throughout their lives, and travel to rivers to spawn or lay their eggs. Unlike some anadromous fish, sturgeon do not die after spawning and will return to spawn multiple times. They can grow up to 14 feet long, weigh up to 800 pounds, and live up to 60 years.

Historically, Atlantic sturgeon inhabited approximately 38 rivers in the United States spanning from Maine to Florida. Scientists identified 35 of those as spawning rivers. Atlantic sturgeon can now be found in approximately 32 of these rivers, and spawn in at least 20 of them.