Sturgeon returning to Suwannee River
Monday, April 19, 2010
Media contact: Karen Parker, 386-758-0525
Gulf sturgeon are beginning their annual migration
back into the Suwannee River during April.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) reminds boaters to slow down and be aware these
fish have started jumping.
Two people were injured in accidental collisions
with jumping sturgeon during 2009.
"Just one person getting hurt is too many," said
Maj. Lee Beach, regional law enforcement commander for the FWC's
North Central Region, based in Lake City. "We want people to
be aware the sturgeon are returning, and the risk of injury to
boaters does exist."
In 2006, FWC officials began working on a public awareness
campaign to alert boaters to the risks of jumping sturgeon.
"We have posted signs at each boat ramp along the
Suwannee, explaining the risk of impacts with these fish," Beach
said. "We will be checking those boat ramps to ensure the
signs are still in place, and our officers will be on water patrol
during this period and into the summer months in a continued effort
to educate boaters on this issue."
What's the best course of action for avoiding a
"We recommend boaters reduce their speed to reduce
the risk of impact and to give people more time to react if they do
encounter a jumping sturgeon," Beach said. "The FWC also
recommends that all boaters wear their life jackets."
The Suwannee River appears to support the largest
viable population of Gulf sturgeon. Biologists estimate the
annual population at 10,000-14,000 fish, averaging approximately 40
pounds each. Adult fish spend eight to nine months each year
in the river spawning and three to four of the coolest months in
Gulf waters. Sturgeon tend to congregate in deeper and cooler
waters with moderate currents and sandy and rocky bottoms.
Biologists are unsure why sturgeon jump.
Theories include that the fish jump to communicate or as a
"I have seen these collisions referred to as
'attacks.' However, these fish are in no way attacking when
they jump. They are simply doing what they have been doing
for millions of years … jumping. They aren't targeting the
boaters," Beach said.
Gulf sturgeon can get quite big, exceeding 8 feet
and 200 pounds.
"They have five rows of rock-hard scutes along
their sides, back and belly. When sturgeon and boaters
collide, the results can be devastating," Beach said.
State and federal laws protect sturgeon, just like
bald eagles, panthers and sea turtles.
"These fish can't be harvested," Beach said.
To report sturgeon collisions, call 888-404-FWCC
"If anyone is involved in an incident with a
jumping sturgeon, please report it to the FWC. With the data
received, we can get a better overall view of where the fish are
jumping and get the word out to the public," Beach said.