Blogs > Boat Blog > Heading off a threat to Hudson River Atlantic Sturgeon – in Delaware Bay

Heading off a threat to Hudson River Atlantic Sturgeon – in Delaware Bay

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Protecting our endangered Atlantic Sturgeon population means fighting threats to their habitat all along the East Coast – and one of our recent efforts has ended in success.

Riverkeeper posted public comments and engaged with our partners to oppose a plan submitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dump 300,000 cubic yards of rock/cobble/sand fill in the deep hole at the southern end of the Harbor of Refuge outer breakwater at Lewes, Delaware.

We steadfastly opposed this plan because the area provides one of the most important habitats to Atlantic Sturgeon coast-wide, and dumping large amounts of fill would negatively alter and permanently impact this critical habitat.

Furthermore, scientific research has clearly shown that Atlantic Sturgeon that spawn the Hudson River will readily travel to Delaware Bay and mix with spawning populations from the Delaware River, especially in the area of the Army Corps’ plan.. Subsequently, we requested a thorough environmental review of this action, including consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service and a public hearing on this matter.

Some of you may know that the Atlantic Sturgeon is a large, long-lived, migratory fish species found along the east coast of North America that spawns in fresh water. The origins of this fish date back to the Triassic period, during the time of the dinosaurs. However, overfishing in the late 19th and early 20th century combined with the loss and degradation of habitat severely diminished the once highly robust Atlantic Sturgeon populations.

Yet, despite a reduction in fishing pressure and improved water quality, Atlantic Sturgeon still remain imperiled. Since 2012 they have been classified as an endangered species, threatened with extinction. The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Recovery of endangered species hinges upon conservation and protection of an organism’s critical habitat.

Further adding to the onslaught of insults directed towards Atlantic Sturgeon over the course of the past 150 years, an area of prime habitat, crucial for multiple life-stages, located at the mouth of the Delaware Bay would have been compromised if the intended plan of dumping 300,000 cubic yards of material were to move forward. Because this area lies in close proximity to dense human habitation, it already receives large amounts of commercial vessel traffic Sturgeon are vulnerable to multiple forms of habitat modifications and vessel strikes in the area, not to mention those that occur in and around the Tappan Zee Bridge construction zone. Further damage to this area would greatly disturb and displace these fish from critical and dwindling habitat, and would violate the spirit of the Endangered Species Act.

Riverkeeper recently received notice that the Army Corps has withdrawn its application to the fill the deep hole at the southern end of the Harbor of Refuge outer breakwater at Lewes, Sussex County, Delaware. For now at least, one threat has been thwarted.

Click here for more information from our allies at Delaware Riverkeeper.

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