Identification of potential critical habitat, seasonal distributions, and movements within and between river systems is important for protecting the Gulf of Maine (GOM) distinct population segment of Atlantic Sturgeon Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus. To accomplish these objectives, we captured Atlantic Sturgeon from four GOM rivers (Penobscot, Kennebec system, Saco, and Merrimack) and tagged 144 individuals (83.3–217.4 cm TL) internally with uniquely coded acoustic transmitters. Tagged fish were detected from 2006 to 2014 by primary receiver arrays that were deployed in the four GOM rivers or were detected opportunistically on a secondary group of receivers deployed within the GOM and along the continental shelf. Tagged Atlantic Sturgeon were documented at three spawning areas in the Kennebec system in June and July, including an area that became accessible in 1999 when Edwards Dam was removed. The majority (74%) of tagged fish were detected in the estuaries of the four GOM rivers, primarily in May–October. They spent most of their time in a 45-km reach within the Kennebec system but occupied more limited areas (≤5-km reach) within the Penobscot, Saco, and Merrimack rivers. Approximately 70% of the tagged fish were detected in GOM coastal waters and aggregated in the Bay of Fundy (May–January), offshore of the Penobscot River (September–February and May), offshore of the Kennebec River (September–February), in Saco Bay and the Scarborough River (July–November), and along the eastern Massachusetts coast between Cape Ann and Cape Cod (April–February). Nine tagged Atlantic Sturgeon (7%) left the GOM; three of those individuals moved north as far as Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and six moved south as far as the James River, Virginia. Information obtained in this study has been used to make recommendations to avoid or reduce the impacts of in-water projects on Atlantic Sturgeon.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science