Life History

Green sturgeon reach maturity around 15 years of age and can live to be 70 years old. Unlike salmon, they may spawn several times during their long lives, returning to their natal rivers every 3-5 years. By comparing the DNA and movement patterns of tagged fish, researchers identified two genetically distinct population segments (DPS) of green sturgeon. Although these fish may look identical, their genetic makeup is very different. This distinction allows NOAA Fisheries and other agencies to manage populations more effectively and helps preserve diversity.

Fish that spawn in the Klamath and Eel River in Northern California and the Rogue River in Oregon belong to the Northern DPS (nDPS) and are listed by NOAA Fisheries as a Species of Concern. Fish that spawn in the Sacramento, Feather, and Yuba River in California belong to the federally threatened southern DPS (sDPS).

During spawning runs, adult sDPS  fish enter San Francisco Bay between mid-February and early May and migrate rapidly up the Sacramento River. Spawning occurs in cool sections of the upper Sacramento River with deep, turbulent flows, and clean hard substrate. In fall, these post spawn adults move back down the river and re-enter the ocean. After hatching, larvae and juveniles migrate downstream toward the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and estuary. After rearing in the delta and estuary for several years,they move out to the ocean. As adults, both sDPS and nDPS green sturgeon migrate seasonally along the West Coast, congregating in bays and estuaries in Washington, Oregon, and California during the summer and fall months. During winter and spring months they congregate off of northern Vancouver Island B.C. Canada. 

For more information, contact NOAA Fisheries Green Sturgeon Recovery Coordinator, Joe Heublein at

Figure Adapted from Beamesderfer et al. 2007