Research on Movements of Green Sturgeon Wins American Fisheries Society 2011 Publications Award

Fisheries Ecology Division,

The paper "Electronic Tagging of Green Sturgeon Reveals Population Structure and Movement among Estuaries" was selected as the best publication for 2011 in Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. A large multi-institution research team led by SWFSC scientist Steve Lindley used innovative acoustic tracking methods to reveal the complex migratory routes of green sturgeon though estuarine and coastal sites along the U.S. west coast. The findings have significant implications for the management of the threatened Sacramento River population of green sturgeon, which migrates to inland waters outside of California where anthropogenic impacts may be a concern. Each year one outstanding paper is selected from each of the society's journals to receive this award.

Citation

Lindley, Steven T., Daniel L. Erickson, Mary L. Moser, Greg Williams, Olaf P. Langness, Barry W. McCovey Jr., Michael Belchik, Dave Vogel, William Pinnix, John T. Kelly, Joseph C. Heublein, and A. Peter Klimley. 2011. Electronic tagging of green sturgeon reveals population structure and movement among estuaries. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 140(1):108-122.

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Abstract

Green sturgeon Acipenser medirostris spend much of their lives outside of their natal rivers, but the details of their migrations and habitat use are poorly known, which limits our understanding of how this species might be affected by human activities and habitat degradation. We tagged 355 green sturgeon with acoustic transmitters on their spawning grounds and in known nonspawning aggregation sites and examined their movement among these sites and other potentially important locations using automated data-logging hydrophones. We found that green sturgeon inhabit a number of estuarine and coastal sites over the summer, including the Columbia River estuary, Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor, and the estuaries of certain smaller rivers in Oregon, especially the Umpqua River estuary. Green sturgeon from different natal rivers exhibited different patterns of habitat use; most notably, San Francisco Bay was used only by Sacramento River fish, while the Umpqua River estuary was used mostly by fish from the Klamath and Rogue rivers. Earlier work, based on analysis of microsatellite markers, suggested that the Columbia River mixed stock was mainly composed of fish from the Sacramento River, but our results indicate that fish from the Rogue and Klamath River populations frequently use the Columbia River as well. We also found evidence for the existence of migratory contingents within spawning populations. Our findings have significant implications for the management of the threatened Sacramento River population of green sturgeon, which migrates to inland waters outside of California where anthropogenic impacts, including fisheries bycatch and water pollution, may be a concern. Our results also illustrate the utility of acoustic tracking to elucidate the migratory behavior of animals that are otherwise difficult to observe.

Contact: SWFSC Fisheries Ecology Division, Landscape Ecology Team

(June 29, 2012)

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