The Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife is asking the public to assist in gathering data on Atlantic sturgeon, and to report any interactions with the fish. Interactions can be of fish incidentally caught while fishing or of live or dead fish observed while on the ocean or any of the state's bays.
The Atlantic sturgeon is a prehistoric fish that can be found in New Jersey's coastal waters and in the Delaware Estuary. Dating back over 70 million years, sturgeon are part of one of the oldest living families of bony fish. These slow-growing fish have been known to live 60 years and reach 14 feet in length and weigh 800 pounds. There was a large sturgeon fishery in the Delaware River until the late 1800's when the population was decimated from overfishing and poor water quality. The population continued to remain at low levels resulting in the implementation of a coast-wide moratorium in 1998 and an endangered species listing on April 6, 2012.
Research on this species has recently gained significance because of the endangered species listing and the upcoming Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) stock assessment. This importance prompted the Division to increase effort to collect more information on this species. Effort began in 2011 when the Division joined a multi-state collaborative project by deploying 18 acoustic receivers in Delaware Bay to track movement of tagged Atlantic sturgeon.
Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife pioneered tagging Atlantic sturgeon in the Delaware River and also manages a program for individuals to report any sturgeon found along the Delaware River or Bay. The success of Delaware's reporting program, along with the 2012 endangered species listing, inspired New Jersey to develop a similar program. The Division is now asking for your help to learn more about this mysterious species by reporting any sturgeon sightings (dead or alive) or interactions in Delaware waters. Interactions may include accidentally catching a sturgeon while fishing, seeing a sturgeon washed up on a beach, or even watching a swimming sturgeon. All interaction information is valuable so it is important to take note of the location, the length, and the presence of any tags. If possible, take a photo of the whole fish and one of the mouth. Photos are helpful for identification (see photo below) and for determining the health of the fish.
The distance from the mouth to the tip of "nose" is much longer on the Atlantic sturgeon (bottom) compared to the shortnose sturgeon (top). The shortnose sturgeon has a relatively wider mouth.
Your help is appreciated. Reports are strictly confidential and will provide valuable data to learn more about the population in order to help make informed decisions on actions that may impact Atlantic sturgeon in Delaware.
To provide an interaction report please submit an Atlantic Sturgeon Report Form.
For assistance with the form, or to submit photos, please e-mail the Fisheries Section, at Sturgeon@state.de.us or call 302-735-8663.