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The ESA and Recovery of Shortnose Sturgeon

Shortnose sturgeon were originally listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on March 11, 1967 under the Endangered Species Preservation Act (ESA, 32 FR 4001). Shortnose sturgeon continued to meet the listing criteria as “endangered” under subsequent definitions specified in the 1969 Endangered Species Conservation Act. NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) assumed jurisdiction for shortnose sturgeon from the USFWS under a 1970 government reorganization plan.

The Endangered Species Act was enacted in 1973 and all species that were listed as “endangered species threatened with extinction” in the 1969 Endangered Species Conservation Act were deemed endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (39 FR 41370).

Shortnose sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum.
Photo credit: UMaine

Shortnose sturgeon are currently listed as an endangered species throughout all of its range along the east coast of the United States. Although the original listing notice did not cite reasons for listing the species, a 1973 Resource Publication issued by the U.S. Department of Interior (USDOI), stated that shortnose sturgeon were “in peril ... gone in most of the rivers of its former range [but] probably not as yet extinct" (USDOI 1973). Pollution and overfishing, including bycatch in the shad fishery, were also listed as principal reasons for the species' decline.

In 2010 NMFS completed the Biological Assessment of Shortnose Sturgeon (Acipenser breviorstrum).  This document represents a comprehensive scientific review of the life history, population structure, threats, and riverine assessments, for shortnose sturgeon throughout the species' entire range. NMFS convened a team of experts on shortnose sturgeon biology, genetics, and life history to compile information for this Assessment. This Assessment reflects the best available scientific information through 2010. NMFS will initiate a 5 year review of the species in 2014.


ESA Protections for the Endangered Shortnose Sturgeon Include:

  • Fishing for, catching or keeping shortnose sturgeon as well as other forms of ‘take’ are illegal.
  • Federal agencies that conduct, fund or authorize activities that may adversely affect shortnose sturgeon must consult with NOAA pursuant to section 7 of the ESA
  • NOAA must periodically conduct status reviews for shortnose sturgeon
  • NOAA must develop a Recovery Plan for shortnose sturgeon

    International Protections

  • CITES protects shortnose sturgeon and other endangered sturgeons by regulating international trade in listed species of plants and animals.
  • The IUCN classifies shortnose sturgeon as “vulnerable” on their Red List of taxa threatened with extinction.

If you have questions about shortnose sturgeon conservation and management please contact our office at 978-281-9328.

Background Documents