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A Brief History of the Gulf Sturgeon

A Brief History of the Gulf Sturgeon


sturgeon 1The Gulf Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) are modern descendants of a group of ancient freshwater fish called Chondrostei which, along with alligators and crocodiles, were able to survive the mass extinction of the Mesozoic Era. Gulf Sturgeon have been known to swim into both fresh and saltwater to feed and uniquely possess a protruding suction mouth that makes it easy to obtain food from riverbeds, lakebeds, and the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf Sturgeon have an average lifespan of 20 to 25 years and grow to a maximum length of 7½ feet, with an average body weight of 150 to 200 lbs., but have been known to reach weights of up to 300 lbs. Gulf Surgeon males become sexually mature at about age 8 and spawn every year after that, while the females become sexually mature at age 12 and spawn only three to four times during their lifespan. Females require 3 years to develop each batch of 200,000 to 500,000 eggs, of which only few will actually survive. Disease, water quality, predators, and a number of other factors claim 99.999% of eggs, hatchlings, and juveniles. USGS calculates that females need to successfully produce only two offspring to maintain a stable population.

In 1991 the federal government granted protection to the Gulf Sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act after a massive population decline occurred due in part to over fishing, damming of rivers, and pollution. Thanks to the many agencies, organizations, and private citizens that have continued to work together to help maintain accurate scientific research and field data, this species that links back 200 million years can still be found among today’s aquatic fauna.


A word from the field from ANAMAR’s Christine Smith:sturgeon 2

“Here are some photos from today’s USGS sturgeon-tagging effort.  We caught about 15 fish on the Suwannee near Manatee Springs.  Normally they catch more, but the DO [dissolved oxygen] was pretty low in the area.  We scanned for previous tags, weighed, measured fork and total length, tagged, and took blood samples.  Prior to fishing we ran a few sidescan transects to try to identify individual sturgeon as well as habitat.”

–Christine Smith on July 30, 2013


(Photos courtesy of Christine Smith)


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