Be safe this weekend around Suwannee River sturgeon
Friday, May 27, 2011
Media contact: Karen Parker, 386-758-0525
Memorial Day weekend means people will be enjoying themselves on
the local waterways. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) reminds boaters to be safe while having a good
time, especially around sturgeon on the Suwannee River.
To date, there have been four reported sturgeon encounters this
year, according to Maj. Lee Beach, law enforcement commander for
the FWC's North Central Region, based in Lake City.
"So far, two people have been injured in encounters with these
big fish," Beach said. "Even though the injuries weren't
life-threatening, that's still two too many people getting
These are the four encounters this year:
- April 27 - A woman was injured when a sturgeon crashed through
her boat's windshield, showering her with glass. She received minor
May 14 - Another woman was injured when a
sturgeon struck her on the back as she was boating on the
May 16 - A man reported that a sturgeon jumped
into his boat, glancing off the windshield. The operator wasn't
injured, but his boat sustained approximately $300 worth of damage
when the fish broke his windshield.
May 23 - A sturgeon reportedly jumped into a boat
near Fanning Springs Park, causing some minor damage to the boat
but no injuries.
In 2006, FWC officials began a public-awareness campaign to
alert boaters to the risks of jumping sturgeon.
"And we're continuing that awareness campaign. With all the
people who are going to be on the water this weekend, we just want
to remind folks to enjoy themselves but be aware of their
surroundings," Beach said.
FWC officers will be on duty around the clock this weekend,
conducting boating safety checks, watching for impaired operators
and educating boaters about the jumping sturgeon on the
What's the best way to avoid a collision?
"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
Biologists are unsure why sturgeon jump. Theories include that
the fish jump to communicate or as a dominance display.
"I have seen these encounters referred to as 'attacks.'
However, these fish are in no way attacking when they jump,"
said Allen Martin, regional freshwater fisheries biologist. "They
are simply doing what they have been doing for millions of years:
jumping. They aren't targeting the boaters," he said.
Gulf sturgeon can get quite big, exceeding 8 feet and 200
"They have five rows of rock-hard scutes along their sides, back
and belly. When sturgeon and boaters collide, the results can be
devastating," Martin 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 (3922).
"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.
information about the Gulf sturgeon, go to MyFWC.com/Research
and click on "Saltwater."