What’s in the News?


Tagging the sturgeon

It has been a great week for sturgeon tagging. We tagged 8 individuals this week. Luckily, Tamara Dietrich and Joe Fudge from the Daily Press were out with us. The article should come out in Thursday’s paper (April 24th), but the video can be found here: http://touch.dailypress.com/#section/702/video/p2p-79985863/

I thought we were going to get skunked when the press was on board, luckily there was a sturgeon in the last 300 feet of the last net. We are also beginning to see the 5-7 foot sturgeon arrive in the James River (have not landed one yet) and I have received a report of one breach in the Pamunkey River. Don’t forget, if you see a sturgeon breach in the Mattaponi, Pamunkey, or York Rivers do not hesitate to contact me (patm@vims.edu).


Sturgeon Chronicles

Hello everyone and welcome to a blog following the adventures in sturgeon research at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. This blog will document several avenues of sturgeon research that is ongoing at VIMS, from taxonomy and genetics, to ecology and physiology. Most of the entries will be written by myself, Dr. Pat McGrath, and follow my progress acoustically tagging and tracking Atlantic sturgeon, but from time-to-time you may here from VIMS professor Dr. Eric Hilton or his graduate student Katie May Laumann.


Sub-adult Atlantic sturgeon caught and tagged in March on the James River.

The purpose of this blog is twofold. Our first goal is increase public awareness of Atlantic sturgeon by showing you what happens behind the scenes of our ongoing research. Currently, Eric and I are acoustically tagging and tracking sub-adult Atlantic sturgeon in the James and York Rivers and adult Atlantic sturgeon in the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers. This is part of a large, collaborative project that is funded by a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded to Eric Hilton and his colleagues from VCU, VDGIF, UMCES, and MdDNR.  In subsequent blogs, I will further describe the acoustic tags, how we catch our fish, and what is involved in our attempts to understand the movements and habitats associated with Atlantic sturgeon.

The second goal is to get feedback from the public about Atlantic sturgeon in the York River system (York, Mattaponi, and Pamunkey Rivers), especially involving breaches. Atlantic sturgeon have been known to completely jump out of the water, similar to whales or dolphins. This video of Gulf sturgeon is a great example of sturgeon breaches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZzcMqEtXdY

It is unclear as to why this behavior occurs, but presently the best hypothesis is that it serves as a form of communication.  It would help us tremendously if you report any breaches witnessed in the York, Mattaponi, or Pamunkey Rivers to me, Pat McGrath (patm@vims.edu). This will guide us in our understanding of where they are located in the rivers and at what time of year.

Thank you for visiting our blog, I hope to continue to update it hopefully weekly, but at least monthly. I hope you enjoy the forth-coming stories of our research, and I look forward to hearing your “sturgeon stories.”

Pat McGrath