Acting on a petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries service classified four populations of sturgeon from New York to Florida, including the bay's, as endangered. A fifth group in the Gulf of Maine was labeled threatened, a lesser stage of rarity.
Fishing for Atlantic sturgeon has been banned for a decade, but they continue to be caught accidentally by fishermen harvesting other species, particularly in commercial gill nets along the coast, according to Sewell. The NOAA decision, posted on the agency's website without alerting news media, said officials would work with state officials and the seafood industry to find ways of reducing bycatch "without unduly hampering fishing activities."
Maryland officials have said a few dozen Atlantic sturgeon turn up in fishermen's nets in the bay every year, but there's been no evidence for decades of them spawning in state waters.