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Seasonal Distribution and Movements of Atlantic and Shortnose Sturgeon in the Penobscot River Estuary, Maine

December 15, 2015

Relatively little is known about the distribution and seasonal movement patterns of shortnose sturgeon Acipenser brevirostrum and Atlantic sturgeon Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus occupying rivers in the northern part of their range. During 2006 and 2007, 40 shortnose sturgeon (66–113.4 cm fork length [FL]) and 8 Atlantic sturgeon (76.2–166.2 cm FL) were captured in the Penobscot River, Maine, implanted with acoustic transmitters, and monitored using an array of acoustic receivers in the Penobscot River estuary and Penobscot Bay. Shortnose sturgeon were present year round in the estuary and overwintered from fall (mid-October) to spring (mid-April) in the upper estuary. In early spring, all individuals moved downstream to the middle estuary. Over the course of the summer, many individuals moved upstream to approximately 2 km of the downstream-most dam (46 river kilometers [rkm] from the Penobscot River mouth [rkm 0]) by August. Most aggregated into an overwintering site (rkm 36.5) in mid- to late fall. As many as 50% of the tagged shortnose sturgeon moved into and out of the Penobscot River system during 2007, and 83% were subsequently detected by an acoustic array in the Kennebec River, located 150 km from the Penobscot River estuary. Atlantic sturgeon moved into the estuary from the ocean in the summer and concentrated into a 1.5-km reach. All Atlantic sturgeon moved to the ocean by fall, and two of these were detected in the Kennebec River. Although these behaviors are common for Atlantic sturgeon, regular coastal migrations of shortnose sturgeon have not been documented previously in this region. These results have important implications for future dam removals as well as for rangewide and river-specific shortnose sturgeon management.

Publication Year 2016
Title Seasonal Distribution and Movements of Atlantic and Shortnose Sturgeon in the Penobscot River Estuary, Maine
DOI 10.1577/T09-122.1
Authors Joseph D. Zydlewski, Stephen J. Fernandes, Gayle B. Zydlewski, Gail S. Wippelhauser, Michael T. Kinnison
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
Index ID 70171366
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Leetown