Atlantic Sturgeon

Atlantic Sturgeon (HM2GR8)

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N 37° 31.218', W 77° 25.111'

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Ancient Giants of the James River

Regarded as a "living fossil," the Atlantic Sturgeon's appearance has changed little since the age of the dinosaurs. Capable of growing up to 14 feet in length, weighing 800 pounds, and living up to 60 years, they spend their adult years in the Atlantic Ocean. Each spring and fall they return to spawn in the waters of the James River where they were born.

Despite its fierce appearance, Atlantic sturgeon are slow-swimming bottom feeders that eat worms, shellfish, and crustaceans. They are distinguished by rows of bony plates called "scutes" along their body, which serve as protection.

The greatest threats to the Atlantic sturgeon's survival are boat propellers, by-catch in commercial fisheries, and pollution and silt that destroys spawning habitat. If you're lucky, during the spring and fall spawn you may see—or hear—one of these river giants "breach" or leap completely out of the water!

200 million years ago
Atlantic sturgeon first appear in the fossil record during the Triassic period.

Jamestown founded. Settlers saved from starvation by the abundance of sturgeon in the river.

Late 1880s
Commercial harvesting decimates the James River's population of Atlantic sturgeon.

Congress passes the Clean Water

Act, the principal law regulating water pollution and setting goals for all U.S. waters to be "swimmable and fishable."

Virginia Marine Resources Commission bans sturgeon fishing in Virginia waters.

A reward program for commercial watermen results in over 300 sturgeon tagged and released in Virginia, discrediting the theory that sturgeon had nearly vanished from the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

A yearling captured in the James River offers definitive proof that there is still a reproducing sturgeon population in the river. The U.S. Geological Survey concluded that there is a genetically distinct James River sturgeon population.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lists the James River's Atlantic sturgeon as an endangered species.

Three experimental spawning reefs constructed in the James River below the fall line provide the clean rocky surface that Atlantic sturgeon need on which to lay their eggs.
HM NumberHM2GR8
Placed ByVirginia Commonwealth University Rice Rivers Center; James River Association; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Monday, May 13th, 2019 at 2:01pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 286268 N 4155341
Decimal Degrees37.52030000, -77.41851667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 37° 31.218', W 77° 25.111'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds37° 31' 13.08" N, 77° 25' 6.66" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling North
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