Discovery of baby sturgeon in the James River marks potential milestone for restoration efforts

Juvenile Atlantic sturgeon swim in a small container after being found in a recent trawl survey of the James River.

Sturgeon born in mid-September found during an Oct. 31 trawling survey by Rice Rivers Center researchers.

For the past eight years, Matt Balazik, Ph.D., and other researchers from the Rice Rivers Center at Virginia Commonwealth University have conducted trawl surveys in the James River in hopes of finding Atlantic sturgeon, the once-plentiful ancient fish that was listed as an endangered species in 2012.

During that time, Balazik and his peers have identified more than 600 different adult sturgeon. Among the hundreds of thousands of fish they found on their research trips, however, not once did they ever spot any baby sturgeon — and only twice did they find any juveniles of the species.

Then, last week, baby sturgeon started showing up in researchers’ nets. In the course of a week, Balazik and his fellow researchers identified 24 baby sturgeon during a series of especially productive trips on the river.

“We’re really excited,” Balazik said. “It’s been very encouraging. After going out all those times and catching nothing, it’s been rewarding to start to see these fish at this stage.”

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