Atlantic sturgeon that summer in Maine’s Penobscot River estuary can be found in the fall and winter in waters as far away as Nova Scotia and New York City, according to a seven-year study of the fish that is one of the planet’s oldest living fossils. The study’s findings are helping to identify the fish’s critical habitats, and inform management decisions concerning the threatened and endangered species.
A University of Maine research team led by School of Marine Sciences associate professor Gayle Zydlewski is working to shed light on the elusive fish by tagging them in the Penobscot River and tracking their travels by using a network of acoustic receivers throughout the Gulf of Maine and beyond.
The scientists found that during the summer months, many of the tagged sturgeon return year after year to a narrow 3-mile stretch of the Penobscot estuary to feed. However, in the fall, they can stray quite far from their summer homes in Maine. Some Penobscot sturgeon were detected as far away as the Bay of Fundy and the Hudson River.
The discovery of extensive migration patterns emphasizes the need for future conservation and management strategies that can span regional subpopulations and international boundaries.