Surfer Erik Schwab stumbled upon an unusual discovery along the stone beaches of Montauk Point State Park on Tuesday night; an Atlantic sturgeon, one of the oldest and most endangered species, rare to this area.
Schwab, a 24-year-old elementary school teacher from West Islip, said he was walking along the south-eastern stretch of beach to check the surf before dark when he found the decaying fish. "I could tell it was no ordinary fish, it was like nothing I have ever seen come out of these waters," Schwab said. "All I knew was I had to document it. I could hardly believe my own eyes," he said.
The Atlantic sturgeon is a long-lived, estuarine dependent, anadromousfish. Atlantic sturgeons can grow to approximately 14 feet long and can weigh up to 800 lbs. They are bluish-black or olive brown dorsally (on their back) with paler sides and a white belly. They have five major rows of dermal "scutes," according to NOAA's Office of Protected Resources.
The species is believed to be amongst the most ancient species still alive today, and remains on the endangered species lists, having been commercially over fished for years in New York.
Historically, Atlantic sturgeon were present in approximately 38 rivers in the United States from St. Croix, ME to the Saint Johns River, FL, of which 35 rivers have been confirmed to have had a historical spawning population. Atlantic sturgeon are currently present in approximately 32 of these rivers, and spawning occurs in at least 20 of them, according to NOAA.