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STURGEON UPDATE: Rivers in Real-Time: Migration!


It has been many years since a gravid Atlantic sturgeon was reported in the James River — until now. Albert Spells (USFWS Project Leader, Va. Fisheries Coordinator Office) and commercial fishermen George Trice and Jimmie Moore caught a confirmed gravid female in Burwell's Bay near Hampton, Va. this past April. That put Matt Balazik, VCU Ph.D. candidate, into action. Balazik surgically implanted a VEMCO acoustic transmitter tag (#16091) into the fish and released her back into the James. The tagging program is part of an ongoing VCU Rice Center engagement project with Prince George High School. Once released back into the river, where did 16091 go from there?

On May 6, pings from 16091 showed up on a receiver maintained by Dr. Dewayne Fox of Delaware State University located near Ocean City, Md. She had traveled a distance of approximately 150 miles in 16 days. She then remained off the coast of Maryland for most of May, moved into Delaware Bay throughout June, and, in early July, moved out of the bay and on to points unknown in the Atlantic.

With support from a NOAA grant, the tag numbers from our Prince George High School program have been registered with the Atlantic Cooperative Telemetry (ACT) Network, a partnership of sturgeon researchers along the Atlantic Coast. Through cooperative data sharing, we hope to document the return of 16091 to the James River and to continue to track the movements of more of our sturgeon during the coming year.


A Google Earth view of the tracked female sturgeon’s movements. Light yellow icons represent movements during May, while orange icons represent June and red icons represent July