Atlantic sturgeon

A day on the water with CTDEEPs sturgeon researchers!

28 September 2021. The day started nice enough but soon turned into dark threatening clouds, which the sturgeon researchers that day eyed with concern. Tom Savoy, Deb Pacileo, and Jacque Benway from CTDEEP, along with Kelli Mosca, Steve, Jake, and Hannes started to cast off late morning and slowly motored up the Connecticut River. "We're trying to catch the slack tide to set our sturgeon gill nets" explained Tom, the veteran sturgeon researcher, who has accompanied and steered most monitoring and protection efforts of these iconic fish over the past decades. It was Tom and his colleagues, who in 2014 caught the first baby Atlantic sturgeon in Connecticut River - a potential sign for a long hoped for recovery and the starting point of our project funded by CT SeaGrant.

The day trip was almost over, before it began. The downpour short but relentless and Jacque eyeing the lightening coming from the west with unease. But just before we could decide to fully head back, the radio call from the other boat that several sturgeon had indeed been caught in the gill nets! We therefore proceeded going through the routine measurement protocol that has been implemented for many years and is part of a federal permit to study this endangered species (No. 19641). Even a photograph is considered a sample, which is why we were glad to have our photographer Jacob Snyder (RedSkiesPhotography.com) fully accredited for the trip today. We saw with our own eyes, how a caught sturgeon was first being carefully pried loose from the gill-netting and placed in an aerated observation sump to prevent stress. All individuals are then checked for previously inserted tags using a specialized scanner (1) and if none is found, a new PIT-tag is inserted under the skin with the help of a syringe (3). All sturgeon are also measured for length (2), gape (5) and head width, and weighed (6) before being released back into the water. Tissue samples and in a limited number of fish also fin spine samples are taken for genetic information and growth data, the latter Kelli analyzed for her Masters Thesis.

The potential re-emergence of Atlantic sturgeon spawning in the Connecticut River is a success story of research and conservation, however, these efforts need to be sustained and widely communicated for the success to endure.

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1. On 28 September 2021, a juvenile Atlantic sturgeon caught in the Connecticut River is being checked for any previously implemented tags 2. Juvenile or sub-adult sturgeon are being measured for fork and total length using a measuring board 3. CTDEEP researcher Jacque Benway inserts a PIT tag into an sub-adult Atlantic sturgeon 4. Subadult sturgeon on a wet tarp before being released into wild again 5. All sturgeon are measured for mouth gape and head width 6. All sturgeon are being weighed with a gentle contraption 7. Master student Kelli Mosca with an adult sturgeon (all images by Jacob Snyder, RedSkiesPhotography)

[New Project] CTDEEP is funding our Atlantic sturgeon proposal!

1 Feb 2020. We are elated to announce that Connecticut Sea Grant has decided to fund our latest research proposal to study Atlantic sturgeon in Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River! The project is funded for two years under the most recent Omnibus Funding call and will examine the growth and seasonal movement of these magnificent, ancient fish.
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Kelli Mosca
The project will fund the Master thesis research of Kelli Mosca, the most recent addition to our lab! After receiving her Bachelors degree from the University of New Haven, Kelli became a dedicated seasonal worker at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CTDEEP), where she assisted particularly with the sturgeon monitoring program. This has made her the best possible graduate candidate to work this project. Welcome, Kelli!

To learn more, head over to the project page.


Baumann, H., Savoy, T., Benway, J., and Pacileo, D. 2020. A re-emergent spawning population of Atlantic Sturgeon in the Connecticut River? Combined age analyses and telemetry data will provide new insights. Connecticut Sea Grant Program (NOAA) #R/LR-29, Feb 2020 - Feb 2022 ($150,000)

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