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Acipenser oxyrinchus ssp. desotoi

Status_ne_offStatus_dd_offStatus_lc_offStatus_nt_offStatus_vu_onStatus_en_offStatus_cr_offStatus_ew_offStatus_ex_off

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA ACTINOPTERYGII ACIPENSERIFORMES ACIPENSERIDAE

Scientific Name: Acipenser oxyrinchus ssp. desotoi
Species Authority: Vladykov, 1955
Parent Species:
Common Name(s):
English Gulf Sturgeon

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2cde ver 3.1
Year Published: 2006
Date Assessed: 2006-01-31
Assessor(s): Parauka, F.M. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
Reviewer(s): St. Pierre, R. & Pourkazemi, M. (Sturgeon Red List Authority)
Justification:
Most North American sturgeons were heavily fished for meat and caviar at the turn of the last century. Gulf sturgeon supported fisheries (up to 7 mt) in Alabama during 1927–1964, but the most persistent fisheries occurred in Florida. Records for the period 1887–1985 indicated that peak Florida harvest occurred in 1900–1902 (124 mt/year) followed by precipitous decline into the 1920s. From 1923–1971 harvest was fairly stable at about 7 mt per year; declined to 2.3 mt through the 1970s; and fell further to only 0.3 mt until fisheries were closed in 1986 (Barkuloo 1988).

Gulf sturgeon continue to be threatened by habitat disturbances such as dam construction, dredging, dredge spoil disposal, groundwater extraction, irrigation and other surface water withdrawals, and flow alterations. Contaminants, primarily from industrial sources, also contribute adversely to individual fish health and population declines.

With a relatively small and widely scattered population, continued habitat disturbances and contaminant threats, the Gulf sturgeon is considered to be Vulnerable (VU). Exploitation of this subspecies has ceased throughout its range. The A2cde classification recognizes that the quality and extent of sturgeon river habitat remains diminished (in many cases irreversibly) and the effects of pathogens and pollutants are not completely understood. However, with federal protection under the ESA and intensive permitting and consultation requirements for all water-related projects and discharges—especially in areas designated to be critical habitat—it is believed that population declines will be halted and reversed.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Gulf Sturgeon were first described as a subspecies to A. oxyrinchus (Atlantic sturgeon) in 1955. They occur in most major river systems from the Mississippi River to the Suwannee River in Florida and in marine waters of the Central and Eastern Gulf of Mexico south to Florida Bay. Though the species was previously listed as also occurring in Mexico, a review of the literature fails to support that contention. A single "sturgeon" was reported seen (but not captured) in the Rio Grande River which separates Texas and Mexico. The Gulf sturgeon’s current area of occupancy is spread over 2,500+ river km and 1,500+ km of coastline. However, construction of dams, sills and other water control structures throughout the 20th century severely restricted inland migrations of Gulf sturgeon in many waterways from St. Andrew Bay, FL to the Bogue Chitto River, LA.
Countries:
Native:
United States (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Native:
Atlantic – western central
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Gulf sturgeon population estimates have been completed for the Apalachicola, Suwannee, Yellow and Choctawhatchee rivers in Florida, Pascagoula River in Mississippi, and the Pearl and Bogue Chitto rivers in Louisiana and Mississippi. The Suwannee River supports the most viable population among coastal rivers of the Gulf of Mexico and was estimated at 7,650 individuals older than age two (Sulak and Clugston 1999). The subpopulation estimate for Gulf sturgeon older than age two in the Choctawhatchee River ranges from 1,700–3,000 fish, while subpopulation estimates in the Apalachicola, Pascagoula and Pearl rivers range from 50–350 fish (Lorio 2000). The number of mature individuals in this range wide population were not estimated but most likely number less than 10,000. Eggs and larvae of Gulf sturgeon have been collected in the Bouie, Escambia/Conecuh, Choctawatchee, Apalachicola and Suwanee rivers (Critical Habitat Ruling).

Stabile et al. (1996) analyzed Gulf sturgeon populations from eight drainages along the Gulf of Mexico for genetic diversity. They noted significant differences among Gulf sturgeon stocks and suggested they displayed region-specific affinities and may exhibit river-specific fidelity. These authors identified five regional or river-specific stocks: (1) Lake Ponchartrain and Pearl River; (2) Pascagoula River; (3) Escambia and Yellow rivers; (4) Choctawhatchee River; and (5) Apalachicola, Ochlockonee, and Suwannee rivers.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Systems: Freshwater; Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Most North American sturgeons were heavily fished for meat and caviar at the turn of the last century. Gulf sturgeon supported fisheries (up to 7 mt) in Alabama during 1927–1964, but the most persistent fisheries occurred in Florida. Records for the period 1887–1985 indicated that peak Florida harvest occurred in 1900–1902 (124 mt/year) followed by precipitous decline into the 1920s. From 1923–1971 harvest was fairly stable at about 7 mt per year; declined to 2.3 mt through the 1970s; and fell further to only 0.3 mt until fisheries were closed in 1986 (Barkuloo 1988).

Gulf sturgeon continue to be threatened by habitat disturbances such as dam construction, dredging, dredge spoil disposal, groundwater extraction, irrigation and other surface water withdrawals, and flow alterations. Contaminants, primarily from industrial sources, also contribute adversely to individual fish health and population declines. Tissue and egg samples of Gulf sturgeon have shown elevated levels of pesticides and heavy metals. Organochlorines such as DDT and its derivatives DDD and/or DDE and toxaphene appear in most samples, sometime in concentrations exceeding U.S. Federal Drug Administration action levels for human consumption. High concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and aliphatic hydrocarbons (both from petroleum products) were detected in most Gulf sturgeon samples from numerous Florida rivers. Arsenic and mercury were detected in 92% and 87% of sturgeon samples and cadmium occurred in 42% of samples (Bateman and Brim 1994).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In 1991, the Gulf sturgeon was listed as Threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). Since then considerable work has been accomplished to better define life history and behavior and to determine habitats important to each life stage, population status, genetic assessment and fish culture. A recovery and management plan for Gulf sturgeon was completed in 1995 (USFWS and GSMFC 1995). This plan identifies state and federal actions necessary to rebuild populations to levels that would allow delisting of the subspecies. In 2002, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service officially designated "critical habitat" for this species which includes 2,783 river kilometers and 6,042 km² of estuarine and marine habitat.

Citation: Parauka, F.M. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) 2006. Acipenser oxyrinchus ssp. desotoi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 29 December 2014.
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