Caitlyn Little

Movement patterns and habitat utilization of Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus) in the Saco River, ME.

The Atlantic sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus, is a large, anadromous fish species that ranges along the eastern coast of North America from New Brunswick in Canada to Florida in the southeastern United States.  Historically, this species was abundant and held great commercial value.

However, overfishing and habitat degradation have led to the depletion of several populations along the eastern coast of the United States.  Decreasing population trends have prompted the listing of the Atlantic sturgeon as a federal species of concern.  Until recently, the Atlantic sturgeon had not been documented in the Saco River for at least the last fifty years.

The current research is focused on assessing the population of Atlantic sturgeon in the Saco River and determining how they are utilizing this habitat.  Individuals captured within the river are tagged with PIT tags and t-bar tags to facilitate future identification.  Additionally, acoustic telemetry makes it possible to monitor the movements of several sturgeon within the river. 

We will also examine habitat utilization and evaluate the potential for the Saco River to function as a spawning ground for the local population through stomach contents analysis, the use of artificial egg substrates and determination of reproductive stages of captured specimens utilizing ultrasound and circulating steroid hormone levels.