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CDFW Sturgeon


CDFW sturgeon population study staff tag and release a white sturgeon.
Courtesy of Marty Gingras, CDFW
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White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus )

White Sturgeon (<i>Acipenser transmontanus</i>) width=
White Sturgeon
(Acipenser transmontanus)
White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) width=<
White Sturgeon
© Robertson, D Ross
Creative Commons: by-NC
Juvenile White Sturgeon
Juvenile White Sturgeon
© USGS staff

Protection Status

Conservation of the species is a high priority.  The species is covered under the draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan and under the Central Valley Improvement Act, and some researchers have rated it conservation dependent and as threatened.

State Listings
California state species protection status listings are governed by the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).
- White Sturgeon are not listed under the California Endangered Species Act.

Federal Listings
Federal species protection status listings are governed by the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
- White sturgeon in California are not listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Critical Habitat
- Not applicable

Life History

White sturgeon range from Alaska to Baja California, are most-concentrated in the San Francisco Estuary, and spawn mostly in the Sacramento River. White sturgeon grow rapidly but mature at around 15 years of age, can live many decades, and long-living members may spawn several times but not annually. Young-of-the-year white sturgeon migrate down the Sacramento River to rear in the San Francisco Estuary and large numbers of those fish survive the migration only in years with nearly-flooding Sacramento River flows during both winter and spring.

Habitat

Adult and subadult white sturgeon spend most of their lives in the San Francisco Estuary and the Delta. Unlike with green sturgeon, white sturgeon are not often observed in the ocean and few fish tagged in California have been recaptured in Oregon. White sturgeon spawn mostly in the mainstem Sacramento River upstream of Knights Landing, which means the Sacramento River is an important migratory corridor for juvenile sturgeon. White sturgeon in the San Francisco Estuary use the deepest holes, the shallowest of shallows, and everywhere in between.

Identification


Figure 1. Lateral and ventral morphological differences
between green sturgeon (a-b) and white sturgeon (c-d).
White sturgeon and green sturgeon are California's only sturgeon. White sturgeon are vastly more common than green sturgeon, such that most anglers will never see a green sturgeon in the wild.

Sturgeon are among the largest and most ancient of bony fishes. They are highly specialized, containing such features as a heterocercal tail, fin structure, jaw structure, spiral valve intestine, and spiracle. They have a cartilaginous skeleton and possess several rows of large ossified plates, called scutes, instead of scales. Sturgeon are highly adapted for feeding on bottom-dwelling animals, which they detect using a row of extremely sensitive barbels on the underside of their snouts. Sturgeons also have electrical sensory organs on their snout, called Ampullae of Lorenzini, that help them detect prey in murky waters and perhaps guide them during their coastal migrations, as observed in hammerhead sharks (Klimley 1993). They can protrude their long and flexible mouths into the substrate to slurp up food.

Only two sturgeon species reside on the west coast of North America, the green sturgeon, Acipenser medirostris, and the white sturgeon, A. transmontanus (Moyle 2002). Green sturgeon were first described by Ayres (1854) from San Francisco Bay. Green sturgeon may be distinguished from the sympatric white sturgeon (Figure 1) by their olive green color, their barbells (which are closer to the mouth than the tip of their snout), a prominent green stripe on the lateral and ventral sides of their abdomen, the presence of relatively sharp scutes, differences in number of lateral scutes, the presence of one large scute behind the dorsal and anal fins (which is absent in white sturgeon), and the location of the vent (North et al. 2002).

References
Ayres, W. O. 1854. Descriptions of three new species of sturgeon San Francisco. Proceedings of the California Academy of Natural Sciences 1:14-15.

Klimley, A. P. 1993. Highly directional swimming by scalloped hammerhead sharks, Sphyrna lewini, and subsurface irradiance, temperature, bathymetry, and geomagnetic field. Marine Biology. 117:1-22.

Moyle, P.B. 2002. Inland Fishes of California. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. 502 pp.

North, J.A., R.A. Farr, and P. Vescei. 2002. A comparison of meristic and morphometric characters of green sturgeon Acipenser medirostris. J. Applied Ichthyology 18:234-239.

Research

Research through both collaborative and independent efforts has been conducted on such topics as distribution, migration, spawning and feeding, habitat utilization, abundance estimates, genetic research. Some examples of this research include:

CDFW does a comprehensive population study which includes a mark-recapture element, indexing the abundance of age-0 fish, and use of data from Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards, Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessels, and creel surveys.

UC Davis conducts does genetic analysis, habitat partitioning between green sturgeon and white sturgeon, and telemetry studies in the Sacramento River and the San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary. Within its laboratories, research (e.g., temperature, salinity, contaminants, entrainment risk, etc.) is conducted on the early life stages.

USFWS conducts egg and larval/juvenile white sturgeon research in the San Joaquin River.

Fishing Regulations

The species can easily be overfished even though it is relatively resilient.  The white sturgeon fisheries were (with minor exceptions) closed from 1901 through 1953 due to overfishing. Commercial harvest of white sturgeon is illegal and recreational harvest is managed through area closures, bag limits, size limits, and gear restrictions.  See Sturgeon fishing regulations effective Jan.1, 2013

Reports

Reports

Figure: Multi-year Cumulative Sales of Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 09:06:29 -0700

2016 Sturgeon Fishing Report Card: Preliminary Data Report

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 15:20:07 -0700

Sturgeon Fishing Report Card Summary Stats - Summary report for 2016 Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards

Table: Sturgeon Fishing Report Card Summary Statistics

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 10:54:16 -0700

Sturgeon Fishing Report Card Summary Stats - Current as of 17-March-2017, this document gives some summary statistics about the Sturgeon Fishing Report Card (2007-2016)

Memorandum: Predicting 2015 and 2016 White Sturgeon Year Class Index

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 15:26:56 -0800

Predicting 2015 and 2016 White Sturgeon Year Class Index - Summarizes method use to predict 2015 and 2016 White Sturgeon Year Class Index

Memorandum: Results of 21-Dec-2016 to 30-Jan-2017 Pilot Sturgeon Angler Phone Survey

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 08:51:19 -0800

Phone Survey - Phone survey of non-avid anglers not reporting 2015 Card

Figure: Sturgeon Retention Rate by CPFVs in the SF Bay and Delta, 1995-2016

Thu, 09 Feb 2017 09:00:33 -0800

retention rate of mostly White Sturgeon from CPFVs fishing east of Golden Gate Bridge

Figure: Harvest and CPUE for Sturgeon by CPFVs in SF Bay and Delta, 1980-2016

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 08:38:17 -0800

annual summary of CPFV harvest of mostly White Sturgeon - annual summary showing harvest, effort, and catch per unit effort for party boats (CPFVs) keeping >= 1 (mostly) White Sturgeon fishing east of Golden Gate Bridge

Figure: Proportion of Catch by Length Category (Tagging)

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 14:32:11 -0800

Figure: CPUE for White Sturgeon (102-152 cm FL) from CDFW Sturgeon Population Study Trammel Nets, 1968-2016

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 14:31:33 -0800

Figure: Length Frequencies of White Sturgeon From Tagging

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 14:29:14 -0800

2016 Field Season Summary for the Sturgeon Population Study

Mon, 14 Nov 2016 08:44:18 -0800

Adult Sturgeon Population Study - Summary report of 2016 Sturgeon tagging field season

Sturgeon CPUE from Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessels and White Sturgeon CPUE from a Mark-Recapture Study

Sat, 12 Nov 2016 10:04:33 -0800

2012 Field Season Summary for the Adult Sturgeon Population Study

Sat, 12 Nov 2016 10:02:04 -0800

End-of-season summary

Memorandum: Results of Jun 21-Aug 5 (2016) Pilot Sturgeon Angler Phone Survey

Fri, 12 Aug 2016 14:28:28 -0700

Figure: Annual Abundance of San Francisco Estuary White Sturgeon by Size Category (sublegal, legal, oversized)

Fri, 08 Apr 2016 20:39:36 -0700

2015 Sturgeon Fishing Report Card: Preliminary Data Report

Mon, 21 Mar 2016 09:34:56 -0700

Sturgeon Fishing Report Card Summary Stats - Annual summary report for Sturgeon Fishing Report Card data

Figure: Length Frequencies of White Sturgeon From Card Data

Tue, 15 Mar 2016 16:41:03 -0700

Length frequency distributions of white sturgeon - Current through 15-Mar-2016, this document represents length frequency distributions of white sturgeon data from Report Cards

Figure: Harvest and CPUE for Sturgeon by CPFVs in SF Bay and Delta, 1964-2015

Tue, 09 Feb 2016 13:55:39 -0800

Memorandum: Results of Nov 19–Dec 21 (2015) Pilot Sturgeon Angler Phone Survey

Wed, 27 Jan 2016 05:28:54 -0800

Estimating Annual Abundance of White Sturgeon 85-116 and >= 169 Centimeters Total Length

Thu, 14 Jan 2016 16:45:53 -0800

Sturgeon abundance - Estimating Annual Abundance of White Sturgeon 85-116 and = 169 Centimeters Total Length

Figure: White Sturgeon Recaptures From Sacramento River Above Courtland, 1980-2014

Fri, 11 Dec 2015 11:30:22 -0800

2015 Field Season Summary for the Sturgeon Population Study

Wed, 18 Nov 2015 08:38:01 -0800

Adult Sturgeon Population Study - Summary of fieldwork for our annual mark-recapture (tagging) study

Figure: Index of Annual Age-0 White Sturgeon Abundance, 1980-2015

Thu, 15 Oct 2015 08:53:06 -0700

Flier: Green Sturgeon Identification

Mon, 10 Aug 2015 17:45:53 -0700

Figure: Monthly Harvest of Sturgeon by CPFVs in SF Bay and Delta, 1980-2014

Sat, 13 Jun 2015 07:58:19 -0700

Figure: Sacramento Valley Water Year Index vs Annual Age-0 White Sturgeon Abundance Index

Thu, 28 May 2015 07:04:35 -0700

Figure: Aspects of the SF Bay and Delta Sturgeon Fishery, 1985-1986

Tue, 26 May 2015 10:31:02 -0700

Table: Contrast in 'Sales Avidity' and Reporting by Report Card

Thu, 21 May 2015 21:08:39 -0700

Table: Sturgeon Fishing Report Card 'Sales Avidity' and Reporting

Thu, 14 May 2015 11:28:19 -0700

Bias in Estimated Annual Harvest Rates for White Sturgeon of the San Francisco Estuary

Fri, 01 May 2015 06:25:45 -0700

Further Investigations into San Francisco Estuary White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) Year-Class Strength

Tue, 21 Apr 2015 04:09:54 -0700

Monitoring Progress Toward a CVPIA Recovery Objective: Estimating White Sturgeon Abundance by Age

Fri, 17 Apr 2015 17:31:58 -0700

2014 Sturgeon Fishing Report Card: Preliminary Data Report

Thu, 05 Mar 2015 11:56:06 -0800

Sturgeon Report Card Summary - 2014 Preliminary sturgeon report card summary (data in report as of 5-Feb-2015)

Figure: Average Harvest of Sturgeon/CPFV Reporting Sturgeon Harvest and Count of CPFVs Reporting Sturgeon Harvest: SF Bay and Delta, 1980-2014

Sat, 21 Feb 2015 12:13:39 -0800

2014 Field Season Summary for the Sturgeon Population Study

Tue, 18 Nov 2014 12:46:25 -0800

Adult Sturgeon Population Study - Field season summary for 2014 sturgeon tagging

Poster: 'Tagged Fish Wanted'

Sat, 25 Oct 2014 06:53:23 -0700

2013 Sturgeon Fishing Report Card: Preliminary Data Report

Thu, 08 May 2014 09:42:58 -0700

Sturgeon Report Card Summary -

A White Sturgeon Year-Class Index for the San Francisco Estuary and Its Relation to Delta Outflow

Sat, 26 Apr 2014 19:42:28 -0700

Using Harvest Rate and Harvest to Estimate White Sturgeon Abundance

Sat, 26 Apr 2014 19:40:10 -0700

White sturgeon alternative population estimates -

Presentation: Impact of Water Operations and Overfishing on White Sturgeon

Sun, 16 Mar 2014 08:12:47 -0700

2013 Field Season Summary for the Adult Sturgeon Population Study

Wed, 18 Dec 2013 08:47:28 -0800

Adult Sturgeon Population Study -

2011 Sturgeon Fishing Report Card: Preliminary Data Report

Thu, 12 Dec 2013 07:42:22 -0800

Sturgeon Report Card Summary -

2012 Sturgeon Fishing Report Card: Preliminary Data Report

Fri, 12 Jul 2013 15:06:25 -0700

Sturgeon Report Card Summary -

Status and Trends of San Francisco Estuary White Sturgeon

Fri, 16 Mar 2012 10:21:39 -0700

2010 Sturgeon Fishing Report Card: Preliminary Data Report

Fri, 11 Nov 2011 16:20:57 -0800

2011 Field Season Summary for the Adult Sturgeon Population Study

Tue, 01 Nov 2011 15:36:21 -0700

Adult Sturgeon Population Study -

Review of Juvenile Sturgeon Setline Survey

Fri, 15 Jul 2011 06:56:04 -0700

2006 Field Season Summary for the Adult Sturgeon Population Study

Mon, 23 May 2011 14:07:17 -0700

2007 Field Season Summary for the Adult Sturgeon Population Study

Tue, 25 Jan 2011 08:14:50 -0800

2007 Sturgeon Fishing Report Card: Preliminary Data Report

Tue, 25 Jan 2011 08:12:31 -0800

2008 Field Season Summary for the Adult Sturgeon Population Study

Tue, 25 Jan 2011 08:09:10 -0800

2008 Sturgeon Fishing Report Card: Preliminary Data Report

Tue, 25 Jan 2011 08:06:26 -0800

2009 Field Season Summary for the Adult Sturgeon Population Study

Tue, 25 Jan 2011 08:04:38 -0800

2010 Field Season Summary for the Adult Sturgeon Population Study

Mon, 24 Jan 2011 16:26:22 -0800

2009 Sturgeon Fishing Report Card: Preliminary Data Report

Mon, 24 Jan 2011 16:22:21 -0800