A recently published article in the North American Journal of Atlantic Fisheries Management indicates that the Hudson River juvenile stock may be recovering, particularly in recent years.
The article describes a slow, but significant increase in catch rates of juvenile Atlantic sturgeon since monitoring began in 2014. Data show the average catch rate of juvenile sturgeon in recent years (2012-2019) is two times higher than that observed during the first eight years (2004-2011) of monitoring.
Although state managers along the Atlantic Coast imposed fishing regulations to reduce harvest or completely closed their fisheries, the stock continued to decline, prompting a 1998 coast-wide moratorium on harvest imposed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). However, this meant information collected from harvested fish and the commercial fishing industry were no longer available to track population trends over time. State managers needed to establish other ways to monitor the depleted stocks.
In 2003-2005, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and US Fish and Wildlife Service developed a fisheries-independent survey to monitor the abundance of juvenile Atlantic sturgeon in the Hudson River. This survey was one of the first to establish relative abundance estimates of juvenile Atlantic sturgeon following recovery recommendations established by the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic sturgeon.
Fisheries biologists in DEC’s Hudson and Delaware Marine Fisheries unit have continued to annually sample using anchored gill nets to capture juvenile sturgeon in Haverstraw Bay, an overwintering area for these young fish. The recently published article uses abundance data collected from this survey.
Atlantic sturgeon are a late maturing species and females may not spawn for the first time until the age of 15. Therefore, protected sturgeon spawned after the 1998 moratorium would only begin to return and spawn in the Hudson River in the early 2010s.This helps explain why data indicates the average catch rate of juvenile sturgeon from 2012-2019 is twice as high than that observed during the first eight years (2004-2011) of monitoring, suggesting the Hudson River stock may be recovering in response to the coast-wide fishing moratorium.