Last week, Hoboken residents spotted something fishy while walking along the Hudson. A large scaly creature broke the surface of the river, sunning itself close to shore just long enough for interested locals to snap a shot. When the picture was reposted to Hoboken Girl’s Instagram, people jokingly guessed that the animal could be anything from a lost alligator to a river monster. After a more serious review, it was determined that the photo likely captured the endangered Atlantic Sturgeon. Here’s what we know about the species, and what this sighting might mean for the Hudson River ecosystem.
(Photo credit: @erin.m.norton)
The Atlantic Sturgeon’s natural habitat spans the rivers and coastal waters of the east coast. It is not surprising that the fish would be at home in the Hudson: rivers and estuaries act as vital spawning grounds for the species before they ultimately migrate to the ocean. A bony, plated appearance makes this bottom feeder impressive to behold and conjures images of sea monsters, but the recent glimpse in Hoboken is all the more exciting given the related conservation history.
All five of the Atlantic Sturgeon’s distinct populations are now considered to be endangered or threatened. The once-abundant animal saw a significant decline as a result of overfishing and habitat loss, so protections have been put into place to assist with population recovery in the Hudson. After several decades of such conservation efforts, often spearheaded by non-profit groups like Riverkeeper, the recent sighting is a promising sign. Though Atlantic Sturgeon remain at historically low levels, a mere presence might indicate that the Hudson as a whole is healing from years of being reduced to an “industrial sewer.”
So what do Hobokenites think of their newest neighbor? According to a representative of the Hoboken Cove Boathouse, locals have certainly had some questions before getting back in the water. Never fear if you’re a frequent kayaker: though the fish can grow to be 14 feet, the rep told Hoboken Girl that Atlantic Sturgeon are harmless and usually too deep to even be spotted. The spokesman continued: “It is an amazing sight to see. After many years of activism by Riverkeeper and other similar organizations, we can finally see so much life coming back into our beloved river.”