For decades, scientists thought sturgeon had vanished from Maryland waters. They're delighted to be wrong

WWhen David Secor started his career at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory almost three decades ago, one of his first projects concluded that the Atlantic sturgeon had all but disappeared from polluted Maryland waters.

The population of the massive fish — often 14 feet long — that once swam with dinosaurs plummeted in the 1900s amid rising demand for their eggs, better known as caviar. Overfishing devastated the species for the same reason caviar is such an expensive delicacy: Sturgeon roe is scarce because females don’t produce it until they’re at least 9 or 10 years old. Even then, the fish don’t spawn every year.

So Secor and other biologists were shocked and then intrigued when, over the past decade, watermen and recreational fishermen started spotting what looked unmistakably like sturgeon flopping and splashing around the Nanticoke River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. One even landed on the deck of a fisherman’s boat.

“I’m delighted to be wrong,” said Secor, whose research focuses on the resilience of exploited fish species.

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