The Great Return of the Atlantic Sturgeon


The Great Return of the Atlantic Sturgeon

Richmond, Virginia

Celebrate James River Week and the Great Return of the Atlantic Sturgeon with the James River Association! Join staff members on a guided canoe program or an outing on the Spirit of the James, the James River Association’s pontoon boat. Participants will learn about the natural resources of the James River and the endangered Atlantic sturgeon, which make an annual migration up the James River in late summer where they often can be seen breaching out of the water!

The Great Return of the Atlantic Sturgeon is a Waterkeeper Alliance SPLASH Event benefiting the James River Association and James Riverkeeper. For more information on the SPLASH Event Series, presented nationally by Toyota, please visit


Program Schedule

About the Atlantic Sturgeon

Atlantic Sturgeon
Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus

Regarded as a living fossil, the Atlantic sturgeon’s appearance has changed little since the age of dinosaurs. Capable of growing up to 14 feet in length, weighing 800 pounds, and living 60 years, they spend their adult years in the Atlantic Ocean. Each spring and fall they return to spawn in the rivers where they were born. Commercial harvesting decimated the Atlantic sturgeon population in the late 1800s and continued threats to the Atlantic sturgeon’s recovery include boat propellers, ship strikes, by-catch in commercial fisheries, and sediment pollution that blankets spawning habitat on the bottom of the river.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Virginia Commonwealth University Rice Rivers Center, and James River Association began working together to restore a viable population of Atlantic sturgeon in Virginia’s James River in 2006. Since 2010 three experimental spawning reefs have been constructed in the James River downriver of Richmond in an attempt to restore the population of this incredible fish.


Did you know?

  • Atlantic sturgeon can grow up to 14 feet in length, weigh up to 800 pounds, and live as long as 60 years.
  • Atlantic sturgeon are an anadromous fish species meaning they spend their adult lives in the ocean and return to the rivers in which they were born to spawn.
  • Atlantic sturgeon can be found on the James River, from the Chesapeake Bay to the Falls of the James, during their spring and fall migrations.
  • Atlantic sturgeon are bottom feeders that eat worms, shellfish, and crustaceans.
  • Atlantic sturgeon in the James River were listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2012.



About the James River Association

The mission of the James River Association is to be a guardian of the James River. We provide a voice for the river and take action to promote conservation and responsible stewardship of its natural resources.