Stur­geon in state make a sur­pris­ing re­turn

Once thought gone for good, fish are be­ing spot­ted of­ten

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

When David Secor started his ca­reer at the Ch­e­sa­peake Bi­o­log­i­cal Lab­o­ra­tory al­most three decades ago, one of his first projects con­cluded that the At­lantic stur­geon had all but dis­ap­peared from pol­luted Mary­land wa­ters.

The pop­u­la­tion of the mas­sive fish — of­ten 14 feet long — that once swam with di­nosaurs plum­meted in the 1900s amid ris­ing de­mand for their eggs, bet­ter known as caviar. Over­fish­ing dev­as­tated the species for the same rea­son caviar is such an ex­pen­sive del­i­cacy: Stur­geon roe is scarce be­cause fe­males don’t pro­duce it un­til they’re at least 9 or 10 years old. Even then, the fish don’t spawn ev­ery year.

So Secor and other bi­ol­o­gists were shocked and then in­trigued when, over the past decade, wa­ter­men and recre­ational fish­er­men started spot­ting what looked un­mis­tak­ably like stur­geon flop­ping and splash­ing around the Nan­ti­coke River on Mary­land’s Eastern Shore. One even landed on the deck of a fisherman’s boat.

“I’m de­lighted to be wrong,” said Secor, whose re­search fo­cuses on the re­silience of ex­ploited fish species. A stur­geon come­back could be one more sign that ef­forts to See STUR­GEON, page 18

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