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Fact Sheet

Sturgeon in the Hudson River

Two main types, Shortnose and Atlantic, though the most well known is the Shortnose, due to their Endangered Species status.


Shortnose Sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum)



  • Belong to group "chondrosteans" - primitive bony fishes, of which there
  • are only two remaining species (sturgeon and paddlefish)
  • Mostly cartilaginous skeletal system
  • Notochord - precursor to bone-covered spinal column
  • Five rows of "scutes" (bony plates) cover the body
  • Leathery skin
  • Snout with barbels and no teeth (to facilitate bottom feeding)
  • Maximum length approximately 3.5 feet
  • Maximum weight approximately 14 pounds
  • The smaller of the two found in the Hudson River

Life and History

  • Prehistoric, primitive appearance, as they have been around since before
  • the dinosaurs (40 million years ago)
  • Life stages
    • Egg and larval
    • Juvenile
    • Non-spawning adults
    • Spawning adults
    • Egg and larval
  • Lifespan
    • Males maximum of 32 years
    • Females maximum of 68 years
  • Spend entire life in the river in which they hatched
  • Food
    • Bottom feeders that eat sludge worms, insect larvae, plants,
    • shrimp, snails, and crayfish


  • Spawning
    • Males - every other year
    • Females
      • Every three years
      • Lay 40,000 to 200,000 eggs
      • Eggs hatch in approximately 13 days
  • Don't spawn until 9 to 23 years of age
  • Anadromous - migrate from saltwater to freshwater in order to spawn
  • Spawning in the Hudson River Estuary
    • Time - April to May
    • Swim from Southern tip of Manhattan to Federal Dam at Troy (153 miles)
    • Current runs from South to North
    • One of the healthiest estuaries on the Atlantic Ocean, as well as known as one of the 14 American Heritage Rivers in the United States


  • Put on Endangered Species list on March 11, 1967, and is thus protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (unlawful to kill or possess them)
  • Endangered Species Act Enrollment is a strict legal process
    • Species is first put on the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants
    • The degree of threat is determined and then labeled as "endangered" or "threatened" (likely to become endangered in foreseeable future)
  • Causes of Endangerment (mostly 1800's and 1900's)
    • Dumping waste into the river (pollutants)
      • Resulted in depleted oxygen levels due to the high number of bacteria present, and thus consuming the oxygen
      • Toxins dumped poisoned fish and upset the food chain
    • Overexploitation - great demands for Sturgeon
      • Eggs - caviar
      • Meat - "Albany beef"
      • Skin - "leather" specialty products
    • Damming of the Hudson - lost breeding grounds
    • Dredging - disrupts bottom feeders and their eggs
    • Water temperature changes due to electric plants cooling systems using river water
    • Slow maturation to age of sexual reproduction, so slow to recover from harm
  • Efforts to bring them back from endangered status
    • Stringent water quality control
    • Habitat protection
    • Research on habitat
    • Strict regulations of policies concerning Sturgeon
    • The issue was popularized in 1994 on the CBS "Sunday Morning Show"
  • Current Information
    • Making a tremendous comeback
    • Approximately 55,265 adults in the Hudson River, but probably more



Atlantic Sturgeon - (Acipenser oxyrhynchus) mainly commercial use


  • In decline
    • Adult distribution overlaps with juvenile Atlantic sturgeon, and perhaps Shortnose are eating Atlantic young
    • Commercial overfishing
    • Decline of other commercial fish may be reason for overfishing (offshore)
    • Possible reproductive failure
    • Possibly survival of the fittest in that the Shortnose Sturgeon have adapted evolutionary more to the Hudson River environment
  • Efforts to prevent them from endangered status 
    • Hudson River Estuary Action Plan
      • Clean up toxins
      • Water quality control
      • Restore Fisheries
      • Protect habitat and open space
    • Current moratorium on their possession and sale
    • Cleanup and regulations very similar to that of the Shortnose Sturgeon
  • Importance
    • Hudson River Estuary Logo


  • Atlantic Sturgeon depicted - Hudson's largest fish
  • Unique in history (primitive) and vulnerable species
  • Hudson River is critical for spawning
  • To remind people that the Hudson River is "...an interconnected ecosystem that needs to be protected and preserved across a wide region, not just along the river banks."