Principal Investigator: Eric Schneider (RI DEM)

Collaborators: Jim Miller (URI OE) and Gopu Potty (URI OE)

Funding Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife State Wildlife Grant

Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrhynchus) are one of the largest and longest-lived anadromous fish in North America. They migrate seasonally to spawning and foraging grounds throughout their range, which extends from Labrador, Canada to St. Johns River, Florida. In the spring of 2012 the species was listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by NOAA Fisheries. Primary threats to recovery include mortality from bycatch and ship strikes, as well as habitat loss and degradation. Observations by fisherman and data collected by fishery observers provide certainty on their presence in Rhode Island state waters; however, we lack specific information on their spatiotemporal distribution. To effectively manage this listed species, we need to better understand when, where, and how Atlantic sturgeon are using areas and habitats within Rhode Island state waters.


Over the last ten years researchers along the East Coast have tagged more than 1,300 Atlantic sturgeons with acoustic transmitters. These acoustically tagged fish have been detected by receivers located in coastal waters along the East Coast, yielding critical information about the movement, migration, and use of habitat in state and coastal waters. Unfortunately, there is a lack of receivers between Long Island, NY and Cape Cod, MA.  This project will use a collaborative research approach between the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Division of Marine Fisheries (RI DEM) and the University of Rhode Island, Department of Ocean Engineering (URI OE) to design, implement, and maintain a series of acoustic receivers to detect the tagged Atlantic sturgeon in Rhode Island waters. Data collected by this project will be shared with the Atlantic Coast Telemetry (ACT) Network, adding to the coastwide dataset supported by more than 64 researchers focusing on 85 species.  Specific to our objectives, this project will provide insight into the spatiotemporal distribution of Atlantic sturgeon in Rhode Island state waters.