A 27-year old Safety Harbor woman suffered minor injuries when a sturgeon crashed through her boat’s windshield and showered her with glass. Investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Concervation Commission reported on April 27th, Erica Stevens and her husband Scott were boating on the Suwannee River north of the U.S. 19 Bridge in Gilchrist County going about 15 m.p.h. when a 5-foot sturgeon jumped up in front of their boat and crashed through the windshield. Erica Stevens was hit by flying glass and received cuts on her arms and legs and was taken to Shands Hospital. The boat damages totalled $2,300. Scott Stevens told investigators he threw the sturgeon back into the river but thought it was dead.
“This is the first sturgeon strike in 2011,” said Maj. Lee Beach, law enforcement commander of the FWC’s North Central Region. “And that’s one too many.”
Beach explained, “We certainly don’t want to scare anyone off the river. The Suwannee is beautiful, and we want folks to come out and enjoy their trip. We just want to remind boaters that the sturgeon are back in the Suwannee, and they are jumping during this time of year.”
In 2006, FWC officials began working on a public-awareness campaign, posting signs along the river to explain the risk of impacts with jumping sturgeon. FWC officials recommend boaters reduce their speed on the river to reduce the risk of impact from jumping sturgeon. Biologists are unsure why sturgeon jump. Gulf sturgeon can get quite big, exceeding 8 feet and 200 pounds.
State and federal laws protect sturgeon, just like bald eagles, panthers and sea turtles. The Gulf sturgeon is listed as threatened, and their harvest is prohibited.
To report sturgeon collisions, call 888-404-FWCC (3922).