Annual Spawning Migrations of Adult Atlantic Sturgeon in the Altamaha River, Georgia
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Annual Spawning Migrations of Adult Atlantic Sturgeon in the Altamaha River, Georgia

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    The Atlantic Sturgeon Acipenser oxyrinchus has declined throughout its range, and the species is now protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Information on the timing and extent of spawning migrations is essential for the development and implementation of effective management and recovery strategies, yet this information is lacking for most populations. The objectives of this study were to document and identify temporal and spatial patterns in the seasonal movements and spawning migrations of Atlantic Sturgeon in the South Atlantic distinct population segment. A stationary array of acoustic receivers was used to monitor the movements of 45 adults in the Altamaha River system, Georgia, from April 2011 through March 2014. Telemetry data revealed that putative adult spawners exhibited two distinct patterns of upriver migration: a spring two-step migration and a fall one-step migration. During the spring two-step migration, the adults appeared to stage in the upper Altamaha during the spring and early summer, before migrating to suspected spawning habitats in the Ocmulgee and Oconee tributaries during the fall. During the fall one-step migration, fish entered the system in late summer and migrated directly upriver to suspected spawning habitats in the Ocmulgee and Oconee tributaries. Regardless of which pattern was used during the upstream migration, all fish returned downstream and left the system by early January. Although direct evidence of spawning has not yet been obtained, the telemetry and environmental data provide strong circumstantial evidence that Atlantic Sturgeon spawning in the Altamaha population occurs only during the fall months when water temperatures are less than 25°C. These findings further illustrate the clinal variation in the life history of Atlantic Sturgeon and highlight the need to manage the species as distinct population segments with regionally specific recovery goals.
  • Source:
    Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science 8(1), 595–606
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    CC BY
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