Historically, shortnose sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum) populated most major river systems along the East Coast of the Unites States and Southern Canada. Over fishing in the late 19th century resulted in a 90% decrease in the population range-wide. With the exception of the Hudson River and the St. John River, the shortnose sturgeon has failed to recover, and in 1967, was listed as endangered in the U.S. Habitat loss, dams, decreased water quality, and pollution have been implicated in their inability to recover. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) currently recognizes 19 different population segments from the St. John River in New Brunswick, Canada to the Indian River, in Florida. In 1998 the NMFS created a recovery plan to address the endangered status of shortnose sturgeon. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR) received Section 6 funding in 2001 and developed the Maryland Conservation Plan for Marine Mammals, Sea Turtles and Shortnose Sturgeon. In 2004 implementation of shortnose sturgeon recovery objectives, outlined in these plans, were started.
MD DNR has partnered with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), along with the South Carolina and Georgia Departments of Natural Resources, to develop a health assessment of shortnose sturgeon in the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware River, Cooper River, Altamaha River, and Ogeechee River, and to determine if estrogenic pollutants may have an impact on the reproductive health or potential of this species. Fish and water samples will be collected through existing surveillance programs. Sex of the animals will be determined by laparoscopy; plasma testosterone, estrogen, and vitellogenin levels will be measured; and the "health" of the fish will be assessed using morphometrics, hematology, and laparoscopy. Water samples will be analyzed for presence of estrogenic pollutants. Hatchery-reared shortnose sturgeon, located at Bears Bluff National Fish Hatchery, South Carolina, will be used to compile a database of "normal" hematology and plasma testosterone, estrogen, and vitellogenin values.