Atlantic sturgeon will be listed as endangered
North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries is advising the state’s
fishermen to aware that Atlantic sturgeon will be listed as a federally
endangered species, effective April 6.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has published a final rule in the
Federal Register listing four distinct population segments of Atlantic
sturgeon as endangered and another as threatened. To read the final
rule, go to: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/nero/regs/frdoc/12/12AtlSturgeonFR_SER.pdf.
The Carolina and South Atlantic population segments, both of which are
prevalent in North Carolina waters, will be listed as endangered.
It has been illegal to harvest Atlantic sturgeon in North Carolina
coastal waters since 1991, so the immediate implications of the listing
are unclear. However, the potential exists for the listing to impact
both commercial and recreational fisheries.
The Endangered Species Act prohibits the take of listed species. The
term “take” includes harassing, harming, pursuing, wounding, killing,
trapping, capturing, or collecting the listed species. Fishermen should
avoid interactions with these fish.
A National Marine Fisheries Service Status Review of Atlantic Sturgeon
concluded that Atlantic sturgeon are caught as bycatch in various
commercial fisheries along the entire U.S. Atlantic Coast within
inland, coastal and federal waters. The final listing decision stated
that based on available bycatch data, sturgeon are primarily caught in
waters less than 50 meters deep by commercial and recreational
fisheries using trawl and gill net gear.
The division, along with most other East Coast states, opposed this
listing as unnecessary based on its review of available scientific
data. These data show that Atlantic sturgeon stocks are improving
coast-wide, partially as a result of the moratorium on harvest.
However, once the listing takes effect, it will have the force of law
and fishermen will be subject to federal fines and penalties if they
interact with the fish.
The division says in a media release that it is exploring all avenues
to address this issue and plans to draft a request for an incidental
take permit under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act. These
permits allow for takes of endangered species that occur incidentally
to an otherwise lawful activity under limitations specified in each