Global Short Term Trend: Decline of 30 to >90%
Comments: Overall, the species appears to have declined in recent years, although some populations still support limited fisheries (St. John River, New Brunswick). Populations in the Hudson and Delaware rivers apparently declined substantially during the latter years of the commercial harvest that ran through 1996 (Sturgeon Notes, Cornell University, November 1993; Atlantic Sturgeon Status Review Team 1998; NMFS 1998). Wild juveniles still exist in the Chesapeake Bay, though recent spawning there was undocumented as of 2002 (Welsh et al. 2002).
In some southern areas where the directed fishery has been closed for some time, limited
data from bycatch and fishery independent surveys suggest that those stocks are
rebuilding (Atlantic Sturgeon Status Review Team 1998). For example, limited sampling in the Cape Fear River, North Carolina, during 1997 suggested a substantial increase in abundance of juvenile Atlantic sturgeon in comparison to sampling during 1990-1992 (the fishery was closed in 1991). During 1995-1997, approximately 500 age < 1 Atlantic sturgeon were tagged in a single 0.5-mile section of the Edisto River, South Carolina. This suggests successful recruitment, which is indicative of a healthy population, despite heavy fishing pressure prior to the closure of the fishery in 1985 (Atlantic Sturgeon Status Review Team 1998).
See Waldman and Wirgin (1998) and Atlantic Sturgeon Status Review Team (1998) for a river by river description of status.
Global Long Term Trend: Decline of 50 to >90%
Comments: The overall population declined drastically over historical periods. Serious population declines occurred in the late 1800s and early 1900s and less drastic declines continued into the 1900s; in the Delaware Bay area, the center for sturgeon fishing, population sizes of all sturgeon species declined 95% between 1891 and 1901 (Gilbert 1989). The species is apparently extirpated in some areas (e.g., Maryland tributaries of Chesapeake Bay; St. Marys River, Florida-Georgia; possibly St. Johns River, Florida), but the overall range is not greatly reduced.