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Genetic population assignments of Atlantic sturgeon provided to National Marine Fisheries Service, 2022

August 24, 2023

Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus (Atlantic sturgeon) were once abundant and supported large-scale fisheries throughout much of the east coast of the United States. However, historic overharvest and habitat loss resulted in dramatic declines in abundance and eventual listing under the Endangered Species Act of the United States. As part of this listing, Atlantic sturgeon populations were divided into five distinct population segments (DPSs), with many management activities occurring at the level of the DPS. However, because subadult and adult Atlantic sturgeon can make large, coast-wide migrations and often mix extensively with individuals from other populations, individuals may be exposed to conservation threats away from their natal river or DPS, ultimately making it difficult to determine the appropriate spatial scale for management activities. To help address this uncertainty, the U.S. Geological Survey performed genetic assignment tests to determine the natal origin of 329 Atlantic sturgeon that were encountered as mortalities or taken during permitted activities in 2021. Overall, most individuals assigned to the Hudson River population, with additional major contributions from the James River Fall and Delaware River populations. However, a sizeable proportion of individuals were assigned to more distantly located populations in the southeastern United States. These results highlight the prevalence of long-distance movements in Atlantic sturgeon and underscore that populations may be vulnerable to threats far from their natal rivers.

Publication Year 2023
Title Genetic population assignments of Atlantic sturgeon provided to National Marine Fisheries Service, 2022
DOI 10.3133/ofr20231054
Authors Shannon L. White, Robin L. Johnson, Barbara A. Lubinski, Michael S. Eackles, David C. Kazyak
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2023-1054
Index ID ofr20231054
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Ecological Science Center