Atlantic Sturgeon in the Delaware River

By John Harrod, Manager, DuPont Environmental Education Center 

Through this past spring, summer and fall, program participants had the joy of finding a sundry of fish at the DuPont Environmental Education Center. Species included brown bullhead catfish, yellow perch, pumpkinseed, and striped bass. 

One species we did not come across is the Atlantic sturgeon. The Atlantic sturgeon is a prehistoric fish that is listed as an endangered species by the State of Delaware. The Delaware River once supported the largest Atlantic sturgeon fishery along the Atlantic Coast. The population collapsed prior to the turn of the 19th century due to factors including overfishing and poor water quality. 

Atlantic sturgeon. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Duane Raver.
Prehistoric Atlantic sturgeon. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Duane Raver.

Things are looking up for this ancient fish.  In the summer of 2009, a small Atlantic sturgeon was caught in a net by Matthew Fisher, Delaware Fisheries Biologist, which had not happened in 5 decades. This provided evidence that Atlantic sturgeon could be spawning in the Delaware Estuary.  One possible spawning location was identified one mile downstream from Wilmington in the Delaware River.

Join us Thursday, February 10, 6:30pm at the DuPont Environmental Education Center for the lecture Atlantic Sturgeon: Historic Problems and Recovery Efforts by Dewayne Fox, Associate Professor of Fisheries Science at Delaware State University.  Learn more about the Atlantic sturgeon’s fascinating life, historic problems and current recovery efforts.  Take home a free copy of Delaware’s Freshwater and Brackish-water Fishes: A Popular Account, by Maynard Raasch.

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