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Abundance estimates are essential for fisheries management, but estimating the abundance of open populations with low recapture rates has historically been unreliable. However, by using mark-recapture data modulated with survivability parameters obtained from analysis of acoustic telemetry data, more accurate abundance estimates can be made for species that exhibit these characteristics. One such species is the Atlantic sturgeon, for which abundance estimates were designated a research priority following precipitous population declines throughout the 20th century. We addressed this research need in the Saco River Estuary (SRE), a system where the Atlantic sturgeon has been extensively studied using mark-recapture and acoustic telemetry methods since 2009. These data were analyzed using Bayesian analysis of a Lincoln-Peterson estimator, constrained with parameters from a Cormack-Jolly-Seber model, to provide an initial abundance estimate for the system. The resulting estimate indicated that approximately 3 299 (95% Credible Interval: 1 462–6 828) Atlantic sturgeon utilize the SRE yearly, suggesting that the SRE provides critical foraging habitat to a large contingent of the species within the Gulf of Maine. The present study demonstrated the method utilized herein was effective in generating a reasonable estimate of abundance in an open system where recapture events are rare, and therefore may provide a valuable technique for supplying initial estimates of fish abundance in additional systems that display similar characteristics.


Originally published:

Flanigan, A.J., Perlut, N.G., and Sulikowski, J.A. 2021. A Preliminary Abundance Estimate of an Atlantic Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus) Contingent Within an Open Riverine System. J. Northw. Atl. Fish. Sci., 52: 39–47.

Author Austin Flanigan was a student at the University of New England when this research was conducted.



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