Recovery plan for green sturgeon released by NOAA Fisheries

WEST COAST — NOAA Fisheries released a final recovery plan for the green sturgeon, an ancient fish found in Central California, on Aug. 21. The recovery plan was released under the auspice of the Endangered Species Act.

Federal officials hope to guide regional and national policy on “the green sturgeon’s threatened southern population.”

The green sturgeon’s Central California population is acknowledged by the Endangered Species Act as “threatened,” according to federal officials; the sturgeon’s Northern California population, conversely, is “more abundant,” according to NOAA Fisheries.

“The recovery plan identifies a number of research, monitoring, and outreach actions for the southern population aimed at restoring fish passage and habitat, reducing sources of mortality, and addressing known threats including climate change, predation, and contaminants,” NOAA Fisheries staff stated. “Most recovery efforts focus on threats to freshwater and estuarine spawning and rearing habitats — the areas that are considered the greatest impediments to recovering the species.”

NOAA Fisheries staff added recovery of any species is ultimately a waiting game and “takes patience.”

“Green sturgeon[s] spend most of their lives in near-shore ocean waters off the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington. Like salmon and other sturgeon species, they are anadromous, meaning they return every few years from the ocean to freshwater rivers to spawn (unlike salmon, sturgeon don’t die after they spawn),” NOAA Fisheries staff stated.

There are about 1,300 adult green sturgeons in Central California, according to NOAA Fisheries.

“This southern population has declined over the last several decades due largely to both habitat loss and dams that have blocked access to their traditional spawning areas,” NOAA Fisheries staff stated. “Most spawning adult sturgeon are found in the Sacramento River. This singular concentration of spawning adults puts the southern population at greater risk of being wiped out by a single catastrophic event.”

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