On August 17, 2017, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a final rule designating critical habitat for the endangered New York Bight, Chesapeake Bay, Carolina, and South Atlantic Distinct Population Segments (DPSs) of Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus), and the threatened Gulf of Maine DPS of Atlantic sturgeon. Collectively, the critical habitat designations total approximately 4,000 miles of aquatic habitat for the five DPSs.
Specific areas designated as critical habitat for the five DPSs are as follows:
- Gulf of Maine DPS: approximately 244 kilometers (152 miles), including areas in the following rivers of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts: Penobscot, Kennebec, Androscoggin, Piscataqua, Cocheco, Salmon Falls, and Merrimack.
- New York Bight DPS: approximately 547 kilometers (340 miles), including areas in the following rivers of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware: Connecticut, Housatonic, Hudson, and Delaware.
- Chesapeake Bay DPS: approximately 773 kilometers (480 miles), including areas in the following rivers and water bodies of Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia: Potomac, Rappahannock, York, Pamunkey, Mattaponi, James, Nanticoke, and Marshyhope.
- Carolina DPS: approximately 1,939 kilometers (1,205 miles), including areas in the following rivers and water bodies of North Carolina and South Carolina: Roanoke, Tar-Pamlico, Neuse, Cape Fear, Northeast Cape Fear, Waccamaw, Pee Dee, Black, Santee, North Santee, South Santee, Cooper, and Bull.
- South Atlantic DPS: approximately 2,883 kilometers (1,791 miles), including areas in the following rivers of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida: Edisto, Combahee-Salkehatchie, Savannah, Ogeechee, Altamaha, Ocmulgee, Oconee, Satilla, and St. Marys Rivers.
NMFS listed the five DPSs of Atlantic sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act in 2012. Four were listed as endangered (New York Bight DPS, Chesapeake Bay DPS, Carolina DPS and South Atlantic DPS) and one was listed as threatened (Gulf of Maine DPS).
The final rule takes effect on September 18, 2017.