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Funded in part by the VCU Libraries Open Access Publishing Fund.

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August 2020


Dredging is considered a major threat/impedance to anadromous fish migrating to spawning habitat. Due to the perceived threat caused by dredging, environmental windows that restrict dredge operations are enforced within many rivers along the east coast. However, it is generally unknown how anadromous fish react to encountering an active dredge during spawning migrations. Atlantic sturgeon (ATS) are an endangered, anadromous species along the Atlantic slope of North America. To determine if and how an active dredge may affect ATS spawning migration, a Vemco Positioning System array was deployed around an active hydraulic-cutterhead dredge that adult ATS must traverse to reach spawning habitat in the James River, VA. Telemetry data showed that all ATS that entered the study area survived. ATS that migrated upstream during dredge operations (N = 103) traversed the dredge area and continued upstream to spawning habitat. Many ATS made multiple trips through the study area during dredge operations. There was no noticeable difference in swim behavior regardless of whether the dredge was absent or working within the study area. We suggest that dredging in the lower James River does not create a barrier for adult ATS migrating to spawning habitat or cause adults to significantly modify swim behavior. This is the first study to utilize fine-scale telemetry data to describe how an organism moves in relation to an active dredge. This methodology could be used to describe dredge-sturgeon interactions on different life stages and in other locations and could be expanded to other aquatic organisms of concern.


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Rice Rivers Center Research (6453 kB)
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