NOAA may list Atlantic Sturgeon
75 Fed. Reg. 838 (Wednesday, January 6, 2010) / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / 50 CFR 223 and 224
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Notice of 90–Day Finding on a Petition to List Atlantic Sturgeon as Threatened or Endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)
AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce.
ACTION: 90–day petition finding; request for information.
SUMMARY: We (NMFS) announce a 90–day finding on a petition to list Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus) as endangered, or to list multiple distinct population segments (DPSs) as threatened or endangered and designate critical habitat under the ESA. We find that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned actions may be warranted. A status review for Atlantic sturgeon was completed in February 2007, and we are currently preparing a determination on whether listing the species or DPSs of the species as threatened or endangered is warranted. To ensure that the determination considers information that is comprehensive and current, we solicit scientific and commercial information regarding this species. DATES: Information and comments must be submitted to NMFS by February 5, 2010.
EXCERPT: The petition summarizes how the Atlantic sturgeon species has declined as a result of overfishing during the 19th century and has failed to recover in the time since a coast-wide fishing moratorium was put in place in 1998. The petition cites bycatch, degraded water quality, dams, dredging, and ship strikes as the most important factors contributing to the continued decline of this species. The petition also cites global warming as a factor that will become increasingly significant as a stressor on Atlantic sturgeon populations by exacerbating harmfully low dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations (or hypoxic water conditions), to which Atlantic sturgeon are particularly sensitive. The petition summarizes the biology, status, and threats for Atlantic sturgeon and for each petitioned DPS.
Atlantic sturgeon are among one of the oldest fish in the world. The species range extends from New Brunswick, Canada to the eastern coast of Florida. Atlantic Sturgeon can reach lengths of up to 14 feet (4.26 m), and weights of over 800 pounds (364 kg). Atlantic sturgeon are distinguished by armor-like plates and a long snout with a ventrally located protruding mouth. Four barbels crossing in front of the mouth help the sturgeon to locate prey. Sturgeon are omnivorous benthic feeders (feed off the bottom) and filter quantities of mud along with their food. Adult sturgeon diets include mollusks, gastropods, amphipods, isopods, and fish. Juvenile sturgeon feed on aquatic insects and other invertebrates (SRT, 2007). Photo from University of Maryland Horn Point Laboratory.