The Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus) was historically abundant within Albemarie Sound and the Roanoke River in North Carolina, but declined dramatically in the late 1800s in response to intensive fishing. Recent evidence suggests that the population may be recovering, following a statewide prohibition on harvest in 1991. A recruitment index generally increased from 1992 through 2001. Estuarine habitat for juveniles appears to be suitable, resulting in mean growth rates for age 1 fish ranging from 0.59 to 0.81 mm day-1. A restoration goal of 7000-21 000 subadult and adult Atlantic sturgeon was developed for the Roanoke River, based on historical landings records. Bycatch mortality because of commercial gill-netting in Albermarle Sound could affect recovery. Telemetry and netting data indicate that juvenile Atlantic sturgeon in the sound are most abundant in shallow nearshore areas where commercial gill-netting is concentrated. However, immediate mortality rates from survey and commercial gill-netting in Albemarle Sound were only 0-2%. Additional field studies are needed to refine estimates of immediate- and longer-term mortality associated with gill-net bycatch.
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Potential for restoration of the Roanoke River population of Atlantic sturgeon