WASHINGTON (CN) - Four distinct population segments of the Atlantic sturgeon are endangered and the fifth is threatened and should be listed as such under the Endangered Species Act, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The agency completed a full status review in 1997 and determined that listing the species was not warranted at that time, but the same year the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission imposed moratorium on all Atlantic sturgeon fisheries and in 1999 the Fisheries Service closed U.S. coastal waters to sturgeon fishing. Sturgeon still are incidentally caught in nets set to capture other bottom feeding species such as monkfish.
Last year the National Resources Defense Council petitioned the agency to list the species under the act or to adopt its own 2007 species status review report which determined that listing of the species should occur individually for each of the five distinct population segments because the factors affecting the species varied by segment and recovery efforts could be better tailored to fit the threats faced by each population.
Sturgeon can live on average up to 60 years, reaching 15 feet in length and 800 pounds. They do not return to their home rivers every year to spawn but instead take breaks ranging for two to five years. Egg production is related to the weight of the female and an 770 female captured in the 1920's contained over 8 million eggs. The average female produces between one and four million eggs.
Under the agency's proposed actions the Carolina, South Atlantic, New York Bight and the Chesapeake Bay population segments would be listed as endangered and the Gulf of Maine segment would be listed as threatened.
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