Acipenser sturio 

Scope: Global & Europe
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Acipenseriformes Acipenseridae

Scientific Name: Acipenser sturio Linnaeus, 1758
Common Name(s):
English Atlantic Sturgeon, Baltic Sturgeon, Common Sturgeon
French Esturgeon Commun
Spanish Esturión Común
Taxonomic Notes: Archaelogical remains suggest that A.sturio colonised the Baltic Sea about 3000 years ago from the North Sea, and vanished from the Baltic Sea about 800 years ago. Climatic changes about 100 years ago (Little Ice Age) might have had an impact indirectly in favouring introgression by hybridization with A. oxyrinchus.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A2cde; B2ab(ii,iii,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2009-10-24
Assessor(s): Gesner, J., Williot, P., Rochard, E., Freyhof, J. & Kottelat, M.
Reviewer(s): Pourkazemi, M. & Smith, K.
Once a very wide ranging species from the North and (Eastern) north Atlantic and Mediterranean coast of Europe and the Black Sea (one record from the White Sea in the 1950s), the last remaining population (in the Garonne in France) is still declining. The species last spawned in 1994 in the Garonne, where dams, pollution and river regulation has degraded and destroyed spawning sites. There are also plans to start gravel extraction. The current population size is between 20-750 wild, mature individuals (in the past three years there has been substantial stocking, but these animals will not reproduce until ~2016). Under normal population circumstances, the average reproductive age is suspected to be about 25 years. There has been more than a 90% population decline in the past 75 years based mainly on loss of habitat, along with pollution and exploitation.

This species now remains in just one location, where 27 spawning grounds (less than 10 km²) remain potentially accessible (the major threat to this species is bycatch). As this species continues to be caught as bycatch, the population is still decreasing.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species was once known from the North and Baltic Seas, English channel, European coasts of Atlantic, northern Mediterranean west of Rhodos, and western and southern Black Sea. It was occasionally recorded in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The last record from the Rioni (Georgia) was in 1991, although further surveys have failed to find the species (J. Gessner, pers comm.). Today this species is restricted only to the Garonne River (France).
Countries occurrence:
Regionally extinct:
Belgium; Denmark; Germany; Italy; Netherlands; Norway; Portugal; Spain; Tunisia; United Kingdom
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:10
Number of Locations:1
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The sturgeon was an important commercial fish until the beginning of the 20th century (Debus 2007). The last natural reproduction was in 1994 (previous reproduction in 1988). A population assessment in 2005 estimated 2,000 individuals remain. It is estimated that bycatch took around 200 fish per year (gill net and trawling at sea) (Rochard et al. 1997).

The size of the population today is much smaller (approximately 20-750 native wild adult fish, based on an assessment of the size the cohort before they leave the estuary). There are more individuals from stocking (7,000 in 2007; 80,000 in 2008; and 46,000 in 2009) (Rouault et al. 2008; Rochard 2010). These have not yet bred in the wild and first breeding (from the releases of 1995) is expected by 2014, F1 generation of 2007 and later releases around 2021. The limiting factor is the availability of females which won't reproduce until ~2016 (Rochard, pers. comm).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:20-750

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Biology: Anadromous (spends at least part of its life in salt water and returns to rivers to breed).

Males reproduce for the first time at 10-12 years, females at 14-18. There are indications for a reproduction at two year intervals for males and 3-4 years for females in April-July. Adults do not eat during migration and spawning. The distance of the spawning migration seems to be positively correlated with water level, and a distance of 1000 km or more may be covered during years of high water. Spent fishes immediately return to the sea (FAO 2009).

Potential spawning grounds have been mapped. Juveniles migrate downstream and are present in upper estuary at one year old. They continue a slow downstream migration and penetrate the sea at 2-3 years. For the next 4-6 years, they leave the sea to enter the lower estuary at summer time where movements and feeding were determined. At sea, this species feeds on a variety of molluscs, crustaceans and small fish. Atlantic population feed benthically.
Systems:Freshwater; Marine
Movement patterns:Full Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: In the past (until late 19th century), juveniles of this species were harvested as animal food in Poland and Germany (Gessner, pers. comm.)

100% removal from the wild - This relates to the past only as commercial trade in this species is now prohibited.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Bycatch is the major threat and the extraction of gravel in the Garonne is a potential threat to the species. Dam construction, pollution and river regulation have led to loss and degradation of spawning sites.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: An ongoing in situ conservation programme is in place. Ex-situ conservation is carried out in France and Germany. Bern Convention Action Plans have been developed, while National Action Plans are to come.

Restocking was initiated in 1995 and later in 2007 until 2009. Survival rate for the 1995 stocking is 3-5%; the survival rate for recent releases is unknown. For the first time in 2007, progenies were obtained from farmed specimen (Williot et al. 2009).

There is a fisheries awareness programme co-ordinated between National Fishermen Associations in Atlantic North Sea and WWF.

This species was listed on CITES Appendix II in 1975, and moved to Appendix I in 1983.

Classifications [top]

5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.1. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Rivers/Streams/Creeks (includes waterfalls)
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.3. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Loose Rock/pebble/gravel
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.4. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Sandy
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.5. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Sandy-Mud
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.6. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Muddy
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.10. Marine Neritic - Estuaries
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
3. Species management -> 3.3. Species re-introduction -> 3.3.1. Reintroduction
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.2. National level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Systematic monitoring scheme:Yes
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Area based regional management plan:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Yes
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:Yes
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
3. Energy production & mining -> 3.2. Mining & quarrying
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

4. Transportation & service corridors -> 4.3. Shipping lanes
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.1. Intentional use: (subsistence/small scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.2. Intentional use: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.3. Unintentional effects: (subsistence/small scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.4. Unintentional effects: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.2. Dams & water management/use -> 7.2.11. Dams (size unknown)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.8. Other

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓   National : ✓  International : ✓ 

♦  Food - animal
 Local : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Bacalbasa-Dobrovici, N. and Holcik, J. 2000. Distribution of Acipenser sturio L., 1758 in the Black Sea and its watershed.

Brosse, L., Rochard, E., Dumont, P. and Lepage, M. 2000. Premiers résultats sur l’alimentation de l’esturgeon européen, Acipenser sturio Lineaus , 1758, dans l’estuaire de la Gironde. Comparaison avec la faune benthique. Cybium 24(3 suppl.): 46-61.

Debus, L. 2007. Meristic and morphological features of the Baltic sturgeon (Acipenser sturion L.). Journal of Applied Ichthyology 15(4-5): 38-45.

Elvira, B. 2000. Symposium on conservation of the Atlantic sturgeon Acipenser sturio L., 1758 in Europe..

FAO. 2009. Fisheries and Aquaculture Information and Statistics Service. Available at:

IUCN. 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2010.1). Available at: (Accessed: 10 March 2010).

Jego, S., Gazeau, C., Jatteau, P., Elie, P. and Rochard, E. 2002. Les frayères potentielles de l’esturgeon Européen Acipenser sturio L. 1758 dans le bassin Garonne-Dordogne. Méthodes d’investigation , état actuel et perspectives. Bulletin Français de Pêche et Pisciculture 365/366: 487-505.

Kirschbaum, F., Ludwig, A., Hensel, E., Würtz, S., Kloas, W., Williot, P., Tiedemann, R., Arndt, G.M., Anders, E., Norheim, H.v. and Gessner, J. 2004. Status of the project on protection and restoration of Atlantic sturgeon in Germany: Background, current situation, and perspectives. In: J.Gessner and J. Ritterhoff (eds). Bundesamt für Naturschutz.

Lochet, A., Lambert, P., Lepage, M. and Rochard E. 2004. Croissance de juvéniles d’esturgeons européens Acipenser sturio (Acipenseridae) sauvages et issus d’alevinage, durant leur séjour dans l’estuaire de la Gironde (France). Cybium 28: 91-98.

Ludwig, A., Debus, L., Lieckfeldt, D., Wirgin, I., Benecke, N., Jennecksens, I., Williot, P., Waldman, J.R. and Pitra, C. 2002. When the American sea sturgeon swam east. Nature 4 (19): 447-448.

Magnin, E. 1962. Recherches sur la systématique et la biologie des acipenséridés Acipenser sturio L., Acipenser oxyrhinchus Mitchill et Acipenser fulvescens Raf. Annales de la Station Centrale d’Hydrobiologie Appliquée 9: 7-242.

Rochard, E. 2001. Patrimoines Naturels. In: Keith, P. & Allardi, J. (ed.), Atlas des poissons d'eau douce de France, pp. 108. Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris.

Rochard, E. coord. 2010. Programme de recherche et de conservation de l’esturgeon européen Acipenser sturio ; bilan scientifique et technique 2008. Cemagref de Bordeaux (in press).

Rochard, E., Lepage, M. and Meauze, L. 1997. Identification et caractérisation de l'aire de répartition marine de l'esturgeon européen Acipenser sturio à partir de déclarations de captures. Aquatic Living Resources 10: 101-109.

Rochard, E., Lepage, M., Gazeau, C. and Lambert, P. 1997. Rapport Final: Life Sturio. Operation III - Action III: Suivi de la situation de la population relictuelle d'Acipenser sturio san le milieu naturel.

Rouault, T., Chèvre, P., Rochard, E., Jatteau, P., Jacobs, L., and Gonthier, P. 2008. Programme de recherche et de conservation de l’esturgeon européen Acipenser sturio ; bilan scientifique et technique 2007. Cemagref de Bordeaux 79.

Taverny, C., Lepage, M., Piefort, S., Dumont, P. and Rochard, E. 2002. Habitat selection by junevile European sturgeon Acipenser sturio in the Gironde estuary (France). Journal of Applied Ichthyology 18: 536-541.

Tiedemann, R., Moll, K., Paulus, K.B., Scheer, M., Williot, P., Bartel, R., Gessner, J. and Kirschbaum, F. 2007. Atlantic sturgeons (Acipenser sturio, Acipenser oxyrinchus): American females successful in Europe. Naturwissenschaften 94: 213-217.

Vlasenko A.D., Pavlov A.V., Sokolov L.I. and Vasil’ev V.P. 1989. General introduction to fishes - Acipenseriformes. In: Holcík, J. (ed.), The freshwater fishes of Europe. Vol. 1, Part II., pp. 345. Aula, Wiesbaden.

Williot, P., Arlati, G., Chebanov, M., Gulyas, T., Kasimov, R., Kirschbaum, F., Patriche, N., Pavlovskaya, L., Poliakova, L., Pourkazemi, M., Kim, Yu., Zhuang, P. and Zholdasova, I.M. 2002. Status and management of Eurasian sturgeon: an overview. Review of Hydrobiology 87: 483-506.

Williot, P., Brun, R., Rouault, T., Pelard, M. and Mercier, D. 2005. Attempts at larval rearing of the endangered western European sturgeon, Acipenser sturio L. (ACIPENSERIDAE), in France. Cybium 29: 381-387.

Williot, P., Rochard, E., Castelnaud, G., Rouault, T., Brun, R., Lepage, M. and Elie, P. 1997. Biological characteristics of European Atlantic sturgeon, Acipenser sturio, as the basis for a restoration program in France. Environmental Biology of Fishes 48: 359-370.

Williot, P., Rouault, T., Brun, R., Pelard, M. and Mercier, D. 2002. Status of caught wild spawners and propagation of the endangered sturgeon Acipenser sturio in France: a synthesis. International Review of Hydrobiology 87: 515-524.

Williot P., Rouault T., Pelard M., Mercier D. and Jacobs L. 2009. Artificial reproduction of captive endangered European Atlantic sturgeon, Acipenser sturio. Endangered Species Research 6: 251-257.

Williot, P., Rouault, T., Pelard, M., Mercier, D., Lepage, M., Davail-Cuisset, B., Kirschbaum, F. and Ludwig, A. 2007. Building a broodstock of the critically endangered sturgeon Acipenser sturio L.: problems associated with the adaptation of wild-caught fish to hatchery conditions. Cybium 31: 3-11.

Citation: Gesner, J., Williot, P., Rochard, E., Freyhof, J. & Kottelat, M. 2010. Acipenser sturio. In: . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T230A13040963. . Downloaded on 25 September 2018.
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