January 13, 2011, New York, NY - NYSG research has implications for the management of our coastal resources. As seen in this environmental report from New Jersey Network News, there is discussion about listing the Atlantic sturgeon as endangered. Preliminary results from the current project by New York University School of Medicine's Dr. Ike Wirgin studying Atlantic sturgeon show that there is a genetically distinct sub population in the Delaware River. This finding could have significant ramifications regarding the listing of Atlantic sturgeon and the management of the fishery.
The Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) once supported lucrative commercial fisheries throughout much of its North American distribution including the Hudson River and Delaware River. These fisheries collapsed and as a result a coast wide moratorium on the harvest of Atlantic sturgeon was implemented in 1998 to restore populations to historic levels. This measure has not been successful in restoring many populations to desired levels. Dr. Wirgin's study builds on previous NYSG funded research and studies the impacts of bycatch at various coastal locations on the recovery of different Atlantic sturgeon populations. Genetic mixed stock analysis is being used in the project to determine the contributions of adult and subadult Atlantic sturgeon from the Hudson River to bycatch in various coastal fisheries extending from the Bay of Fundy to North Carolina and in different gear types. By quantifying the contributions of individual populations to bycatch, managers will be better informed in determining the effects of bycatch on individual populations and if necessary regulate damaging fisheries to reduce bycatch on the most vulnerable sturgeon populations.
In the second year of this two-year study, results show so far that a portion of young-of-the-year Atlantic sturgeon spawned in the Delaware River in 2009 exhibited unique genetic markers (mtDNA haplotypes) not seen in any other reference spawning populations coastwide. This demonstrates that not only is the Delaware River population not extinct but that it also is genetically discrete. This data also demonstrated that a moderate number of mothers contributed to year class production in the Delaware in 2009. This finding should have significant ramifications regarding management and designation of threatened or endangered status. Other preliminary results indicate that subadult Hudson River fish contribute to populations in the Connecticut River, Delaware Coast, Long Island Sound and the Bay of Fundy.