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Way Downstream …(March 14-20,2019)

Giant Atlantic sturgeon spotting hopeful signs

      A sturgeon is not a pretty fish. It’s long and bony with a sharp, upturned snout and whiskers. A prehistoric fish, they have been around for more than 100 million years. Once, Atlantic sturgeon were common in Chesapeake Bay and its rivers, the biggest fish that swam here in modern times.
      But they are exceedingly rare, an endangered species all but wiped out by pollution, low oxygen and overfishing to collect their eggs for caviar.
      So when we read in National Geographic about the spotting of a truly huge Atlantic sturgeon — 14 feet long and perhaps 800 pounds — we got excited (https://on.natgeo.com/2H3LCop).
      Researchers working with the species spotted the massive creature in the Hudson River on sonar last year while studying whether ships dropping anchor were disturbing a sturgeon spawning ground.
     In Virginia’s James River, only two sturgeon were counted in 2017’s trawling survey. Yet last year the number jumped to 153 very young sturgeon of 2.5 to 6.5 inches. Obviously, something in the way of sturgeon reproduction is happening. 
      The Hudson River discovery may be an indication that recovery efforts are succeeding. We’re happy, too, that researchers didn’t try to land the behemoth given that a sturgeon of this size produces millions of eggs. Besides, they could never have handled it.
      “Our boat is way too small to deal with a fish like that,” a biologist told NatGeo.
      That sturgeon got away, but five sturgeon in the five- to six-foot range have just moved into the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn where they seem to be swimming happily (https://nyaquarium.com/updates/atlantic-sturgeon-debut). They’re refugees from right here in Maryland, sent packing after Maryland Department of Natural Resources ended funding for its sturgeon recovery program at Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge.