Acoustic tag detections of green sturgeon in the Columbia River and Coos Bay estuaries, Washington and Oregon, 2010–11

Open-File Report 2017-1144
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
By: , and 



The Columbia River, in Washington and Oregon, and Coos Bay, in Oregon, are economically important shipping channels that are inhabited by several fishes protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Maintenance of shipping channels involves dredge operations to maintain sufficient in-channel depths to allow large ships to navigate the waterways safely. Fishes entrained by dredge equipment often die or experience delayed mortality. Other potential negative effects of dredging include increased turbidity, reductions in prey resources, and the release of harmful contaminants from the dredged sediments. One species of concern is the ESA-listed green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris; Southern Distinct Population Segment). In this study, we used acoustic telemetry to identify habitat use, arrival and departure timing, and the extent of upstream migration of green sturgeon in the Columbia River and Coos Bay to help inform dredge operations to minimize potential take of green sturgeon. Autonomous acoustic receivers were deployed in Coos Bay from the mouth to river kilometer (rkm) 21.6 from October 2009 through October 2010. In the Columbia River Estuary, receivers were deployed between the mouth and rkm 37.8 from April to November in 2010 and 2011. A total of 29 subadult and adult green sturgeon were tagged with temperature and pressure sensor tags and released during the study, primarily in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, Washington, and the Klamath River, Oregon. Green sturgeon detected during the study but released by other researchers also were included in the study.

The number of tagged green sturgeon detected in the two estuaries differed markedly. In Coos Bay, only one green sturgeon was detected for about 2 hours near the estuary mouth. In the Columbia River Estuary, 9 green sturgeon were detected in 2010 and 10 fish were detected in 2011. Green sturgeon entered the Columbia River from May through October during both years, with the greatest numbers of fish being present in August and September. One green sturgeon was detected at the uppermost receiver station (rkm 37.8), but overall, the number of fish detected upriver decreased rapidly with distance from the estuary mouth. Residence times of fish that were only detected in the lower 4.8 rkm generally were less than 24 hours, but fish detected farther upriver had a median residence time greater than 10 days. Green sturgeon were widely dispersed among channel and non-channel habitats in the lower estuary in 2010. In 2011, the fish were more concentrated near the estuary mouth. The intensity of use, measured as the total number of fish detections at each station, generally was greatest from Point Ellice (rkm 20.1) to Rice Island (rkm 33.0) in channel and shallow shoal areas, and lowest at the stations west of Point Ellice with the exception of the area near the entrance to the Ilwaco Channel.

Sensor tag data indicated that the deeper South and North Channel habitats (bottom depth ≥10 m) were used, as were the more shallow sandy shoal, shoreline, and bay habitats (bottom depth <10 m). Median fish depths among fish and receiver locations ranged from 2.5 to 28.2 m below water surface (bws) and water temperatures ranged from 9.1 to 22.0 °C during late May through mid-October. In the deeper channel habitat, near the Ilwaco Channel, fish inhabited water with median temperatures ranging from 11.4 to 16.7 °C, whereas east of Point Ellice, predominantly in shallow non-channel habitats, fish inhabited water with median temperatures ranging from about 17.0 to 21.0 °C.

Suggested Citation

Hansel, H.C., Romine, J.G., and Perry, R.W., 2017, Acoustic tag detections of green sturgeon in the Columbia River and Coos Bay estuaries, Washington and Oregon, 2010–11: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2017-1144, 30 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Study Area
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
  • Appendix A. Dates When Acoustic-Receiver Stations in the Detection Array Were Operational in the lower Columbia River Estuary, Washington and Oregon, 2010–11
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Acoustic tag detections of green sturgeon in the Columbia River and Coos Bay estuaries, Washington and Oregon, 2010–11
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2017-1144
DOI 10.3133/ofr20171144
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Western Fisheries Research Center
Description vi, 30 p.
Country United States
State Oregon
City Astoria
Other Geospatial Coos Bay
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details