Species encyclopedia

European Sea Sturgeon

Acipenser sturio

Environment and biology

The European sea sturgeon is the largest migratory fish in French waters. It is diadromous, meaning it can live in both freshwater and seawater. It swims over muddy or sandy beds.

As an adult, it migrates from the sea to the lower segments of rivers to reproduce. After spending a few months in freshwater, the young sturgeon spend three years in an estuary before moving out to sea.

In the sea, adults feed primarily on shrimp, green crabs, worms and molluscs. They use their rostrum and barbels to sift through the seabed. Thanks to a protractile mouth, they inhale their prey in a sudden sucking movement. On average, they measure 1 to 2 m long, although they can reach as much as 6m and 400kg.


In the past, they were present in large rivers and along the shores of the Atlantic but are now considered one of the most endangered species in Europe.

The major causes of its decline are intensive sturgeon fishing for caviare, construction on waterways, and pollution. It has been a protected species in France since 1982 and in Europe since 1998.

A national action plan has been launched by the Ministry of Ecology, coordinated by DREAL (Regional Directorate for the Environment, Development and Housing). The primary objectives of this plan are conservation of the species in situ, habitat protection, and the rearing of young sturgeon until their release into the wild.

Thanks to a stock of sires, IRSTEA (French Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture) has already released hundreds of thousands of juveniles in Aquitaine since 2007. It will take years though before those fish will be able to reproduce and rebuild the sturgeon population.

Atlantic Ocean


Species encyclopedia

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