MarLIN

information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser sturio)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.

Summary

Description

The Atlantic, or European, sturgeon Acipenser sturio is one of the largest species of fish to occur in freshwater but also one of the most endangered. It is an anadromous (migratory) fish, spending most of its adult life in marine waters but migrating into freshwater to reproduce and spawn. It is large and can reach a maximum length of 3.5 m and a weight of over 300 kg. It has an olive-black upper body with green or gold tints, light coloured flanks with silver tints and a white belly. The elongated body tapers to a narrow pointed tip at the snout.  The body lacks scales but can be easily recognised by five rows of light-coloured bony platelets (scutes) that run the length of the fish. The dorsal fin occurs towards the back of the body and the tail fin is curved with an extended, larger, upper lobe (heterocercal). It possesses no teeth but uses conspicuous sensitive barbels on the lower jaw to locate prey which are sucked into the mouth.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Little is known about the current distribution of the Atlantic sturgeon, following over-fishing, although it may still be found in rivers and inshore waters from Scotland down to the eastern and south-western British Isles and the Irish Sea.

Global distribution

Once widely distributed in the North East Atlantic, Baltic Sea, and the Mediterranean coast of Europe and the Black Sea.

Habitat

Acipenser sturio is a demersal species. It can tolerate a wide range of salinities. Most of its life is spent at sea, relatively close to the coast, but it enters rivers to spawn.

Depth range

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Identifying features

  • Bottom-dwelling fish with an olive-brown upper body and a white belly.
  • Maximum length of up to 3.5 m and a maximum weight of over 300 kg.
  • Five lateral rows of bony platelets.
  • Conspicuous barbels are visible under the lower jaw, halfway between snout and mouth

Additional information

Acipenser sturio is a long-lived (up to 100 years) and slow-growing species. This has left it vulnerable to fishing pressure and is now severely threatened by commercial fishermen targeting, in particular, the caviar contained within the females (Elvira, 2000). It was once widely distributed in the North East Atlantic, Baltic Sea, and the Mediterranean coast of Europe and the Black Sea. The last remaining breeding population (in the Garonne in France) is in decline. Hence, it is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN (Rosenthal et al., 2007; Gesner et al., 2010).

Listed by

Further information sources

Fishbase (www.fishbase.org)

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Bibliography

  1. Elvira, B. (ed.), 2000. Symposium on the Conservation of the Atlantic Sturgeon Acipenser sturio, L., 1758, in Europe. Madrid and seville, Spain, 6-11 September 1999. Boletin del Instituto Espanol de Oceanografia, 16.

  2. Gesner, J., Williot, P., Rochard, E., Freyhof, J. & Kottelat, M. 2010. Acipenser sturio. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T230A13040963. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-1.RLTS.T230A13040963.en. Downloaded on 05 July 2018.

  3. Rosenthal, H., Bronzi, P., Gessner, J., Moreau, D. & Rochard, E., 2007. Action Plan for the conservation and restoration of the European sturgeon (Acipenser sturio). Convention On The Conservation Of European Wildlife And Natural Habitats (Bern Convention). Nature and environment, No. 152, Council of Europe Publishing, Brussels, pp. 125. http://awsassets.panda.org/downloads/6_20yy_action_plan_a_sturio_eu_1.pdf

  4. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I, II & III. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Datasets

  1. Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Environmental Records Centre, 2017. CPERC Combined Dataset. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/npthhv accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  2. Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Environmental Records Centre, 2017. Invasive Non-Native Species. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/rg1l9v accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  3. Isle of Wight Local Records Centre, 2017. IOW Natural History & Archaeological Society Marine Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/7axhcw accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  4. Manx Biological Recording Partnership, 2017. Isle of Man wildlife records from 01/01/2000 to 13/02/2017. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/mopwow accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  5. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

  6. OBIS (Ocean Biogeographic Information System),  2019. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2019-05-21

  7. Record, 2018. RECORD Freshwater Fish Data. Occurrence dataset https://doi.org/10.15468/m5tosv accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01

  8. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. INNS Data: All Taxa (South East Wales). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/crhjs2 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  9. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. SEWBReC Fish (South East Wales). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/htsfiy accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  10. West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre, 2018. INNS Data: All Taxa (West Wales). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ydifzd accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

Citation

This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Acipenser sturio Atlantic sturgeon. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 21-05-2019]. Available from: https://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/46

Last Updated: 27/03/2008