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Atlantic Sturgeon Populations Are Recovering Along The Coast

Keith Ashley and Bennett Wynne, North Carolina Resources Commission
Creative Commons

The endangered Atlantic Sturgeon is slowly making a comeback along the North Carolina coast. 

The ocean fish needs to come into coastal rivers to spawn. Dams and locks in many of the state's waterways have made it difficult and, in some cases, impossible for the sturgeon to reproduce. But efforts to remove some of those barriers seems to be having a positive impact. 

Joe Hightower is a US Geological Survey biologist and NC State professor.  He says over-fishing and a thriving caviar fishery around the turn of 20th century took a toll on the sturgeon, but a fishing ban and endangered status could bring the population back. 

“One long-term possibility would be to have a caviar fishery again, and its really just a matter of setting the harvest rate to be appropriate for a fish with this life history,” Hightower said. “We understand a lot more now about how long they live, how long it takes them to reproduce.”

Hightower says it takes females 10 to 12 years to reach reproductive maturity.  He says there's been an increase in the number of juvenile fish in Albemarle Sound over the past decade.  A tagging program is underway in the Roanoke River.

Eric Hodge hosts WUNC’s broadcast of Morning Edition, and files reports for the North Carolina news segments of the broadcast. He started at the station in 2004 doing fill-in work on weekends and All Things Considered.
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