Signs of a comeback for one of the Hudson River's iconic species

atlantic sturgeon illustration

illustration: Duane Raver/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikipedia

The Atlantic sturgeon is an iconic species for the Hudson River -- it's the fish depicted in the logo for the river's estuary, it was once a favorite food in this area known as "Albany beef," and they can grow up to 8-feet-long. The last century has been rough on the species, though -- the population has declined significantly the fish are now considered endangered.

But the state Department of Environmental Conservation reports this week that there are indications that Atlantic sturgeon populations are rebounding. DEC says a survey of the Hudson River last year found the highest numbers of sturgeon in the survey's 10-year history -- and there appears to be an overall upward trend.

Said acting DEC commissioner Basil Seggos in a press release: "We are cautiously optimistic that, with our continued vigilance and efforts to protect this species, Atlantic sturgeon will have a secure future."

The decline of Atlantic sturgeon populations prompted a 1998 moratorium on fishing them along the East Coast. And that ban could last until the late 2030s because sturgeon can live as long as 60 years, and don't reach maturity until 11-21 years old.

As David Strayer, a freshwater ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, explained to us last year:

"Fisheries biologists talk about [the overfishing of Atlantic sturgeon] like clear cutting, which I think is an apt analogy. You wouldn't think you could go into a wood lot and cut all the trees every five minutes and expect there to be a forest there any longer. Everybody understands it takes so many years for a baby tree to grow up. It's the same way with the sturgeons. When we started fishing them real hard it was like someone went into the woods and cut all the trees."

And now it appears the forest of fish is starting to slowly grow back.

Earlier on AOA: Odd and notable creatures of the Hudson River

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