Federal officials have declared the Atlantic sturgeon an endangered species, a decision that could lead to moves to protect its habitat along the East Coast. The prehistoric fish was once bountiful, but populations were depleted by anglers seeking its coveted caviar.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it is currently considering information on sturgeon populations in order to designate critical habitat.

Environmental groups have sought to stop dredging of the Delaware River, citing the harm it could cause to the sturgeon population. Jane Davenport, senior attorney at the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, says the group will work to ensure remaining sturgeon are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Federal officials say before 1890, an estimated 180,000 sturgeon spawned in the Delaware, which is believed to currently have fewer than 300.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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