British Marine Life Study Society

Feb 1982, 62 lb female Sturgeon -Acipenser sturio caught in beam trawl by Trevor Bull, north of Jersey, eaten by H.R. Elizabeth II (Photograph provided by Nick Jouault)
Common Name(s):
 European Sturgeon 
Scientific Name:
 Acipenser sturio

Usual Size:

Identification:  (Notes not collated properly yet)

Biological Notes
by Alan Knight 


Sturgeon are found only in the Northern Hemisphere. There are 25 species of sturgeon. Only one species is found in British seas and rivers. It is Acipenser sturio, the Atlantic (Baltic) Sturgeon. It is anadromous, a migratory species entering rivers to spawn and then returning to sea. 

British Records

Today very few are found in British waters and it is probably unknown in our rivers. It was common two centuries ago in our large rivers including the Severn, Avon, Thames (the remnants have been found in the medieval remains of Westminster Abbey), Ouse and some Scottish rivers. A fully grown sturgeon can weigh up to 318 kg (700 lb) and females can measure 3.4 metres (11 ft) or more. In colour it varies from greenish-brown to bluish-black dorsally, lightening on the sides to white ventrally. The dorsal scutes are light in colour. The colour deepens with age and in the young the scutes are conspicuously light and the fish has a striped appearance. 

 The head is covered with hard bony plates that meet to form conspicuous sutures (a type of immovable joint between the bones of the skull). The body is long and slender and (together with the head) is protected with usually five rows of flat bony scutes or shields. 


The Sturgeon is sometimes described as a prehistoric monster: only parts of the skeleton are ossified (i.e. calcified, bony). The skull is made up of cartilage, as are  most of the vertebrae, whereas in most bony fishes the whole skeleton is made up of bones. Ancestral forms include two genera from the Jurassic Period (195 to 136 million years ago). Only fragments exist indicating that they were probably 6-7.5 metres (20-25 ft) long. The sucking mouth and plated armour developed later and fossil remains of  today's sturgeon have been found in rocks dating from the Eocene Epoch (54 to 40 million years ago). 

Phylum:  Chordata  
Subphylum:  Vertebrata   
Superclass:  Gnathostomata   
Class:  Osteichthyes (Bony fishes) 
Subclass:  Actinopterygii  (Ray-finned fishes) 
Infraclass:  Chondrostei   
Order:  Acipenseriformes  
Suborder:  Acipenseroidei   
Family:  Acipenseridae  
Genus:  Acipenser   
Species:  sturio   

The majority of bony fishes are classified in the Infraclass Teleostei. 

For information on the evolution of fishes see the 'Rise of Fishes' reviewed at 07.02.31). 

Alan Knight can be contacted at: 
11 Cleeve Lawns, Downend, Bristol, BS16 6HH. 
Tel: 0117 956 8841. 

Links to completed Pages




Additional Notes:
IUCN classifies the European Sturgeon, Acipenser sturio, as critically endangered. It is a protected species listed in appendix III of the Bern Convention, and its trade is restricted under CITES appendix II. The Mediterranean population is strongly protected under appendix II of the Bern Convention, prohibiting any intentional killing of these fish.

Extremely rare. 

A recent reprinted article in our local paper, the Newark Advertiser, told of a large sturgeon that was found in the River Trent. It was shot and pulled onto the bank were it was exhibited with a charge of one penny being levied. The reason that this one was shot? A large fish, some time earlier, had destroyed eel nets.

Message from Wayne Nussey

Dear Alan Knight,

I've just read your piece on sturgeon in the Severn with considerable interest. I have known the river, freshwater, for 40+ years.
Re. the two sturgeon at "Shrewsbury weir" in 1802 and the 1890's, please may I point out the present weir at Shrewsbury, Castlefields, below the town, was not built until 1911. What these might be, however, are references to the old "flash" weir for navigation at Coton Hill, just above the town. The site of this is still clearly visible, and there were a number of them from the town up to the Vyrnwy confluence at Melverley, still marked on 1950's OS maps. The cargo boats ("trows") were hauled up a narrow side channel round the weir, where of course there was a big force of water. The weirs were needed to keep water levels above up for navigation, there being no locks.
Also, the famous J Arthur Hutton in "Wye Salmon and Other Fish", 1949, says "I have a photograph of one [a sturgeon] which was captured in the Severn in 1941. It must have been a huge monster, for it was 9ft 6" long and weighed 353 lb".
Know anything about this one?!
Best wishes
Richard Owen, Forest of Dean


Links to other Pages:

European Sturgeon (CNPMEM)

World Sturgeon List

Sturgeon Page

Sturgeon Society (External Link)
Sturgeon (1998 News Item)

* Sturgeon  (these notes have not been checked yet) (British records) *


2 November 2013

A metre long SiberianSturgeon, Acipenser baerii, was caught on rod and line by Peter Johnson off Greenhithe Pier in the River Thames estuary. It is was released back into the sea after capture. This species is native to the Ob river systems that flow into the Arctic Ocean, in Siberia. In its native habitat it is condered anadromous and able to migrate the sea and live in salt or brackish water. but it is mostly to be found in the freshwater reaches of these large rivers. Therefore, it has been found suitable for aquaculture and the pet trade and the most likely reason for its appearance is that was accidentally or deliberately released from a captive specimen. 

Siberian (Long-nosed) Sturgeon
Photographs by Peter Johnson

The catch was reported to French and German experts by the Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM) and they identified it.

It follows another sturgeon caught more than 200 miles away near Pembroke Dock, South Wales, in August. That was the first reported in Britain since 2004 when a monster more than eight feet long was snagged by a trawler also in South Wales,

Steve Colclough, chairman of the IFM’s marine specialist section, said the fish could possibly be one lost from cages in the Gironde river in France some years ago during a caviar farming experiment.

But, he said, it was more likely an escapee from the UK pet trade. He explained: “These exotic species are imported and this may show that some are now escaping into the wild. The Pembroke Dock sturgeon was probably also a pet trade fugitive.”
Anyone catching a sturgeon should tell their local Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority or Cefas at Lowestoft (01502 562 244) after first taking a photo and measurements, checking for any tag and returning the fish alive to the water. 

Mr.Colclough said a yellow tag on a sturgeon would show it had probably migrated from the Gironde river in France where they are now being bred and released.

These fish would normally stay in the Gironde until they were about ten years old when they might migrate to the open sea.

If they came to the UK they would most likely be caught in estuaries and still be juvenile fish. Normally they would live 50 or 60 years and grow up to three-metres (about 10 feet) long.

Mr. Colclough would also like to hear from anyone who catches a sturgeon at or 01634 327899.


Note to editors: 
The sturgeon at Greenhithe was caught on Saturday November 2 but was not revealed until the fish had been positively identified from photographs by experts at the National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture (Irstea) at Bordeaux, and the Leibniz-Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin.

2 August 2013
An Atlantic Sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus, was caught on rod and line off Hobbs Point, Pembroke Dock, Pembrokeshire. It was about a metre long. 

Report by Ann Bunker on Porcupine NHS on  facebook

The Atlantic Sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus, was thought to be extirpated throughout its European range including the Baltic Sea and now only found on the American side of the Atlantic where it is Near Threatened
IUCN Red Listing

 I query the identification of this fish and this may be an escaped captive Sturgeon of another species.

2 June 2004

A Sturgeon, Acipenser sp., was caught in an otter trawl in Bristol Channel south of Swansea at 2:30 pm in the small (under 10 metre) fishing vessel MFV Wonkey SA357, skippered by Robert (or Kevin) Davies. It weighed 120 kg (265 lb), and was was 261 cm (8 ft 6") long (including the tail fin) and 246 cm long (excluding the tail).It was caught at a depth of between 10 and 20 metres. I believe it to be Acipenser sturio, but the snout is fairly short and blunt, more like Acipenser gueldenstaedtii (but this is a Danube/Black sea species).


  Early July 1998 
Sturgeon, Acipenser sturio, reported from Kinlochbervie, Western Highlands, Scotland.  The fish weighed 27 kg (60 lb) and was taken at sea near Sule Rock, between Cape Wrath and the Orkneys. Kinlochbervie is a fishing port just south of Cape Wrath, the most northerly point of the western part of the peninsula of mainland Scotland (John o' Groats is on the east). 


Sturgeon farming technology is already available, but, as usual, rescuing a species is a much more complex subject than just a fish farming technology research...

Anyway, I had the great opportunity to taste farmed sturgeon caviar at the Association des Aquaculteurs de la Région Centre (Orléans, France) and it was really great ! 

Lionel Dabbadie <

Completely protected in Europe as it is listed in Habitats, Fauna and Flora (Appendices II and IV) and Bern Convention (Appendix II) . 
At present there is only one remaining population with only some thousands individuals. Adults (like that fish caught in England)  are extremely rare. 
They spawn in May-June in Garonne and Dordogne rivers in south west France. 
At sea this diadromous species is distributed from south Biscay to Scandinavia and sometimes they are mentioned around Bristish Isles. 

At sea sturgeon can be caught with bottom trawls as well as gill net and trammel net of wide mesh size. Most of the time fish are alive when they are caught and fishermen must be put back at sea alive. As I mentioned it is strictly forbiden to keep this fish as well as to sell it. 

A European Life project is going on from 1994 with scientits of several countries, and we can send information to people interested these rare species. 

If you have any other information about this capture. I greatly appreciate to get them 

Thank you very much for your help. 

Yours sincerely 

>  Eric Rochard    PhD 

>  Cemagref 
>  Unité Ressources Aquatiques continentales
>  33612 CESTAS Cedex 
>  France 

>  Tel  + (0)5 57 89 08 13 
>  Fax +(0)5 57 89 08 01

Life story information and status  of the European Sturgeon (CNPMEM)


Alan Knight (BMLSS member) is researching Sturgeon in British seas and rivers and would like to receive all historic records and details of recent captures. Please EMail the BMLSS on the number below. Details will be forwarded to Alan Knight.

Information wanted: Please send any records of this fish, with location, date, who discovered it, how it was identified, prevalence, common name and any other details to Shorewatch Project EMail 
All messages will receive a reply. 
Shorewatch Project

Information supplied by Andy Horton (British Marine Life Study Society


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