IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
As flesh and roe (caviar) gained popularity in North American, the species was heavily exploited, particularly during several decades of the late nineteenth century. Severe over-fishing of mature sturgeon in the U.S. led to a crash of the A. o. oxyrinchus stocks and harvest was reduced by over 90% by the early 1900s and 99% by the 1920s. All U.S. Atlantic sturgeon fisheries have been closed since 1997, although Canada maintains active commercial fisheries in the St. Lawrence River and in the Saint John River. The current number of mature individuals most likely numbers considerably more than 10,000. Area of occupancy for this subspecies is very large (>1,500 river km spread over 3,000 km of coastline). Substantial subpopulation mixing may occur, particularly as sub-adults, and re-colonization of seriously depleted stocks may occur from adjacent healthy populations. Throughout the 20th century, sturgeon breeding habitats have been adversely impacted by dams, siltation, channel maintenance (dredging) and water pollution. Although habitat and water quality concerns still occur in several locations, the vast majority of formerly occupied habitats remain available to this species. The subspecies is assessed as Near Threatened based on past population declines and because of uncertainties about overall stock health and the lengthy time required for population recovery.
Records for A. o. desotoi fisheries during the period 1887–1985 indicated that peak Florida harvest occurred in 1900–1902 (124 mt/year) followed by precipitous decline into the 1920s. From 1923–1971 harvest was fairly stable at about 7 mt per year; declined to 2.3 mt through the 1970s; and fell further to only 0.3 mt until fisheries were closed in 1986 (Barkuloo 1988). A. o. desotoi continues to be threatened by habitat disturbances such as dam construction, dredging, dredge spoil disposal, groundwater extraction, irrigation and other surface water withdrawals, and flow alterations. Contaminants, primarily from industrial sources, also contribute adversely to individual fish health and population declines. With a relatively small and widely scattered population, continued habitat disturbances and contaminant threats, A. o. desotoi is assessed as Vulnerable.
Overall, the Atlantic sturgeon A. oxyrinchus is considered Near Threatened based on the population declines suffered in the past and uncertainties about overall health of the population and the lengthy time required for recovery.
- 1996Lower Risk/near threatened
- 1990Vulnerable(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)