WASHINGTON — Nanticoke River Atlantic sturgeon, once thought to have vanished from Maryland waters, are making a comeback — and U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both D-Md., are here for it.
The senators on Tuesday, Aug. 20, announced $296,071 in federal funding to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to aid in research on the species.
Until Maryland and Delaware biologists’ recent discovery of adult sturgeon in the Nanticoke River and its streams, biologists reported not having seen the region’s sturgeon in 40 years.
The Atlantic sturgeon’s significant population decline has been attributed to overfishing and habitat loss. In the late 1800s, the fish were prized for their eggs, which were considered high-quality caviar.
Now, with the species’ reemergence, scientists are dedicated to tracking the fish, as well as helping to replenish and maintain its population.
Funding for the Maryland DNR’s efforts, awarded through the National Ocean and Atmospheric Agency Fisheries’ Species Recovery Grant Program, will help scientists develop new ways to estimate the species’ spawning run size.
NOAA, which is headquartered in Silver Spring, is a scientific agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that focuses on the conditions of the oceans, major waterways and the atmosphere.
Its Species Recovery Grants Program is a longstanding, successful grant program that supports high-priority recovery actions for listed species.
Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, emphasized the importance of finding a balance between commercial and recreational activities and protecting wildlife in the Chesapeake Bay.
“We are lucky to have a second chance to work toward rebuilding the Atlantic sturgeon population,” Cardin said. “[It’s] critical to a healthy and thriving Chesapeake Bay.”
Cardin said he’s “proud of the efforts of Maryland scientists in this research and pleased that these federal funds will help them to do their jobs.”
Van Hollen, who is a member of the Environment and Public Works and Appropriations Committees, said protecting the Chesapeake Bay and its wildlife is “of paramount importance” to both the state of Maryland’s environment and economy.
“The Atlantic sturgeon have been in the Bay for over a hundred years — but their numbers have become so dwindled that scientists thought they disappeared from the Bay altogether,” Van Hollen said. “This investment will help better track and protect this vital species in their newly rediscovered home.”
The Atlantic sturgeon project will be conducted jointly with Maryland DNR and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.