In January, NMFS announced that five distinct population segments (DPSs) of Atlantic sturgeon would be listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). According to the announcement, Atlantic sturgeon is now considered endangered in the New York Bight, Chesapeake Bay,Carolina, and South Atlantic DPSs, and considered threatened in the Gulf of Maine DPS. As part of the listing, each DPS is considered a unique species.
This announcement comes in the wake of the Natural Resources Defense Council's 2009 petition to list three Atlantic sturgeon DPSs as endangered and two DPSs -- including the Gulf of Maine -- as threatened.
While the ESA listings will undoubtedly affect all fishing operations, the impact of the listings on the region's other fisheries, including monkfish, remains unclear. To resolve this NMFS will soon publish biological opinions that establish a baseline status for each DPS. Next, they will conduct a jeopardy analysis to examine the impact of fishing activities on the Atlantic sturgeon's continued existence in the wild.
These analyses will ultimately inform whether management action needs to take place to reduce sturgeon takes and if so, to what level. While 11 fishery management plans (FMPs) will be included in the formal biological opinions for each DPS, it is still unclear if sturgeon mortality will be apportioned to individual FMPs or aggregated to all affected FMPs.
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