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The Chesapeake's Oldest and Largest

A fish with unparalleled historical significance, the Atlantic sturgeon is threatened with extinction on our watch. Photo courtesy of iStock.

There's an ancient fish in our Chesapeake Bay, and it's threatened with extinction on our watch.

That's right: A local fish—the Atlantic sturgeon—survived Ice Ages, just to become endangered millions of years later by poor water quality, destruction of its habitat, and overfishing.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries is proposing to designate "critical habitat" for Atlantic sturgeon. CBF will be weighing in on this critical designation—and we hope you will, too.

The Atlantic sturgeon has a long history in the Chesapeake Bay, earning the title of its oldest and largest fish species. These prehistoric fish have been around for 120 million years, and each one can live 60 years, grow to 14 feet in length, and weigh up to 800 pounds.

But their numbers have dwindled, and, in 2012, the Atlantic sturgeon was added to the Endangered Species List. Now, NOAA Fisheries must identify those areas that are most important for the survival of the species—the "critical habitat" needed for spawning, rearing, feeding, and migration to other important habitat.

The link between the health of sturgeon and the health of the Bay and its major rivers is an important one. The Bay's degraded water quality has created barriers between important habitats, interrupting the species' life cycle. By restoring water quality through the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, we will be helping to recover one of the region's oldest, most extraordinary fish species.

From Virginia's James, Pamunkey, and Mattaponi Rivers to Maryland's Potomac River to Pennsylvania's Lower Susquehanna to the Delmarva Peninsula's Marshyhope Creek and Nanticoke River, sturgeon have spawned and survived across the Chesapeake Bay region. They'll need these areas—along with the healthy water quality that will allow them to get to these areas safely—in order to survive.

What can you do to help? Public comment on the critical habitat designation will be taken until September 1. Stay tuned for updates on how you can weigh in to support our recommendations for designation. In the meantime, more information on the proposal and comments can be found here.

Wow. Modern-day dinosaurs right here in the Chesapeake Bay. Don't your kids and grandkids deserve that same sense of wonder?

Let's work together to ensure that a fish that has been here for millions of years will still be here, spawning and someday thriving, for generations to come. 

—Bill Goldsborough, CBF's Director of Fisheries


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It's no wonder the sturgeon and any fish can survive. I live on the James River in Richmond and the amount of trash that over flows from sewage is absolutely disgusting. The river and bay is a toilet for humans. Might as well kiss them goodbye.

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