Age, Growth, and Status of Shortnose Sturgeon in the Lower Ogeechee River, Georgia

Shortnose sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum) were monitored as part of continuing studies in the Ogeechee and Canoochee rivers adjacent to Fort Stewart, Georgia, during 1999 and 2000. Over 13,000 net-meter h soak time and 1,700 person h of effort were expended; short (27.5-m) experimental gill nets were a satisfactory sampling gear. Retention of externally mounted telemetry tags was poor (mean = 80 d), and spawning habitats were not located. The population, ranging from ages 3 to 14, was estimated at 147 individuals. Growth equation parameters and rates of mortality were similar to those described in other river systems. Recruitment appears to limit the recovery of the population. Modeling suggests this population has been maintained by yearly recruitment of about 30 age-1 fish since 1993. Cultured shortnose sturgeon released into the Savannah River allowed for age validation and contributed substantially to year classes 8, 9, and 11. Compared to other described shortnose sturgeon populations, the Ogeechee River population remains one of the most depressed. Therefore, population trends should be closely monitored, factors limiting recruitment identified, and critical habitats located using improved methods of telemetry.

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