Here are some sturgeon facts. Don¶t know if this will help or not.

I¶ve also included the interview questions. KP

It's an ugly fish with a face only another sturgeon could love. It's the prehistoric-looking, sucker-mouthed, scute-covered Gulf sturgeon and it's creating quite a stir on the rivers in North Florida. The sturgeon can trace their roots back 200 million years. And even though they're just doing what they've been doing for eons, it's causing a problem for some boaters. The Gulf sturgeon makes its presence known by jumping out of the water. With adult fish reaching up to eight feet in length and weighing up to 200 pounds, they can make quite a splash. Scientists believe there are approximately 10,000-14,000 Gulf sturgeons that make the Suwannee their summer home, with far fewer numbers in the six other major U.S. rivers where Gulf sturgeon are known to spawn. The Suwannee River, which flows from the Okefenokee Swamp in southeastern Georgia down through northern Florida, is one of the most pristine rivers in the country - with no dams for returning sturgeons to contend with. The Suwannee is considered one of the last "wild" rivers in Florida. Sturgeon return to the eastern Gulf of Mexico during the winter, where they feed heartily. They typically do not eat while they are in the river - losing somewhere around 20 percent of their body mass. Because of this extended fast, biologists wonder why the fish would use energy jumping out of the water. When they do eat, Gulf sturgeons are bottom feeders. They have barbles - catfish-like whiskers - that help them search sediments for prey, which they vacuum up with their sucker mouths. Gulf sturgeons were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1991. The sturgeon is listed as a species of special concern in the state of Florida. Why are these fish listed? There are many reasons. Their Gulf-wide habitat has been destroyed or greatly altered. Dams have prevented the sturgeon from migrating to old spawning areas. Dredging and other navigation maintenance may have eliminated the deep holes where sturgeon congregate. They were overfished to the point where Florida took the unprecedented action in 1984 of banning harvesting, capture, or "take" to prevent their extinction, just as we did for Bald Eagles. To make things even tougher for the sturgeon, it takes many years for the fish to reach breeding age, slowing population recovery. What boaters can do Go slow: The best course of action is to go slow. This gives more time to react and if you are hit, the force of the blow is much less at 10 mph than it is at 35 mph.

Wear your life jacket: Some boaters don't like wearing a life jacket due to its bulkiness or fit. However, there's been a revolution in life jacket design, and there are lighter, more compact and less restrictive models on the market. They include lightweight over-theshoulder and belt-type inflatables, in addition to vest-type life jackets. If you're hurt and unconscious, a life jacket will help keep you afloat. Be alert: Pay attention to your surroundings. If you're in an area where you see sturgeon jumping, slow down and get closer to the shoreline. The fish tend to stay in the deeper sections of the river. Designate an operator: Don't boat and drink. If you're impaired, you have slower reaction times. If alcohol is consumed on a vessel, there should be a sober designated operator. Boat safe: Keep passengers off the bow of the boat. The Suwannee River is a beautiful part of Florida and should be enjoyed. The FWC wants boaters to know that these fish are out there and they do jump. Just be prepared, go slow and have fun.

Interview questions and answers Why do sturgeon jump? There are several theories about why sturgeon jump. However, no one knows exactly why they leap out of the water. Researchers have suggested that jumping may be a form of sturgeon-to-sturgeon communication. While the specific reason is unknown, researchers agree that the jumping activity must be important since considerable energy is expended to launch a large sturgeon six feet into the air. When do sturgeon jump? Sturgeon are generally observed jumping during the summer and fall months (MayOctober). Jumping occurs most frequently in mid-summer (May-early August) in rivers where sturgeon are spawning. Jumping occurs intensely at dawn and dusk and less frequently in between. Where do sturgeon jump? Gulf sturgeon are known to jump in a few Florida rivers, including the Suwannee River. While it is possible for sturgeon to jump anywhere in the river, sturgeon in the Suwannee River are more commonly observed jumping in certain parts of the river where sturgeon gather, referred to as 'holding' areas. There are eight major holding areas in the Suwannee River: Jack's Sandbar; Manatee Springs; Fanning Spring; Usher Landing; Old Town Trestle; the conjunction of the Santa Fe and Suwannee Rivers; Rock Bluff; and Anderson Springs. There are a number of minor holding areas. Most of the encounters have occurred at the confluence, Rock Bluff and Fanning Springs.

Do the water levels have anything to do with the jumping activity? Biologists believe that during a low water event, the jumping activity increases. When the water levels are higher or near flood stage, little activity is observed. Do sturgeon attack boats? No. As part of their natural behavior, sturgeon frequently jump straight out of the water, turning sideways and landing with a loud noise. Much like deer hit by cars, jumping sturgeon are sometimes struck by boats. A large sturgeon can weigh more than 100 pounds, so impact with a fast-moving boat can cause serious injury to both boat passengers and the sturgeon alike. Can sturgeon bite? No, as sturgeon have no teeth. They feed by sucking in their food. Prey is detected by taste and touch by four sensitive barbells in front of the mouth, and by a system of sensors on the underside of their long, flat snout. Have people been injured by jumping sturgeon? Yes, people have sustained injuries related to jumping sturgeon. Injuries have resulted when jumping sturgeon have come into direct contact with people and when people have responded to avoid collisions with jumping sturgeon. How can I avoid being injured by a jumping sturgeon? The Suwannee River is a beautiful river that should be treasured and enjoyed by everyone. However, the risk of being struck by a sturgeon does exist during the spring/summer/fall months. It is recommended that while on the river, boaters go slow and watch out for jumping sturgeon. By going slow, boaters will have more time to react and the slow speed lowers the risk of serious injury if there is direct contact with a jumping sturgeon. Wear your life jacket and keep passengers off the bow of the boat when you see jumping activity. Warning signs are posted at locations along the river advising boaters to slow down in known holding/jumping areas to reduce the potential of collisions between jumping sturgeon and boats. What should I do if I am hit by a sturgeon? If you are injured, seek medical attention. Collisions with sturgeon should be reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission by calling the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at 1-888-404-3922. We use the information to track where encounters occur. What has FWC done to alert the public to these jumping fish? In 2006, FWC mounted an intense public awareness campaign to let people know these fish were present and could injure those boaters enjoying the Suwannee. The agency message of ³Go slow on the Suwannee´ for better reaction time and less impact if a sturgeon did leap out of the water was stressed. A news release is sent out each March to warn boaters that the fish were migrating back into the Suwannee from the Gulf of Mexico. News releases have also been generated after each reported strike to reinforce the ³Go Slow´ message. Signs asking boaters to be aware of the jumping sturgeon were posted at all Suwannee River boat ramps and ³Go Slow´ decals are handed out to remind boaters to go slow while traveling on the river.

New signs warning of the dangers of jumping sturgeon will replace the old metal signs installed in 2006. These signs are similar to ³deer crossing´ sign. We are also installing signs on the water, cautioning boaters that the sturgeon are jumping. A Living with Sturgeon website has been created and is linked to the FWRI page. A Guide to Living with Gulf Sturgeon brochure has also been designed and published. They are being handed out to boater by officers who patrol the Suwannee. We have partnered with US Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries to create a more expansive public awareness campaign. How many Gulf sturgeon are in the Suwannee River? Biologists estimate about 10,000 - 14,000 sturgeon live in the Suwannee River. Adult populations in other Gulf Coast rivers range from a few hundred to about 3,500. Why are there so many sturgeon in the Suwannee River? There are smaller sturgeon populations in other Florida rivers, particularly in the Panhandle, but the largest population is in the Suwannee River. The Suwannee is considered one of the last "wild" rivers in Florida. There are no man-made structures or dams on the river and the sturgeon have access to the entire river. Water and habitat quality in the river are good. Why do Gulf sturgeon come into the Suwannee River? Aren't they marine fish? Gulf sturgeon are called anadromous fishes, from the Greek, meaning fishes that travel back and forth between fresh and salt water. They feed in marine waters but they must return to freshwater rivers to spawn. Except when they jump, why are sturgeon rarely seen or caught in the river? Much of Gulf sturgeon behavior, including spawning and the fall migration from the river to the Gulf, takes place at the bottom of the river, in dark tannic (tea-colored) water, or nocturnally (at night). Fingerlings are nocturnal, rarely venturing into shallow water along the riverbank in the daytime, or into the clear waters of spring outflows. In addition, anglers rarely catch larger sturgeon on fishing gear because Gulf sturgeon generally do not feed in the river. Are Gulf sturgeon found in the smaller tributaries of the Suwannee River? Almost all sturgeon species are adapted to live primarily in large rivers. They generally do not go into small streams and tributaries, or do so only briefly for spawning. Although abundant in the lower and middle Suwannee River, Gulf sturgeon are also occasionally found in the upper Suwannee, Santa Fe and Alapaha rivers, and venture only a short distance up the larger Withlacoochee River (a tributary of the Suwannee). In the Suwannee, adults are rarely found above the point where the Withlacoochee River joins the Suwannee River, except during the spawning season. Can Gulf sturgeon be harvested? Gulf sturgeon are protected by Florida law and listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. They are protected from fishing or other harvest. It is illegal to keep or intentionally injure a Gulf sturgeon. Why are Gulf sturgeon protected? Gulf sturgeon have been federally listed as a threatened species since 1991 and protected by Florida law since 1984. These protections were needed to counter the effects of habitat loss caused by river damming and commercial harvesting.

Development, surface mining and declining water quality continue to threaten Gulf sturgeon today. Dams on some rivers cut off access to upriver spawning grounds, preventing reproduction. How big do Gulf sturgeon get? Gulf sturgeon may reach a maximum size of about eight feet and weigh approximately 150-220 pounds. Most males stop growing at about five feet. Most Gulf sturgeon exceeding this length are females. Females grow large and develop a great number of large eggs. How long do Gulf sturgeon live? The life expectancy for Gulf sturgeon is between 20-42 years. The oldest age documented for a tagged and recaptured Suwannee River Gulf sturgeon is about 27-28 years. A Gulf sturgeon caught in the Suwannee River in the early 1970s was aged at 42 years. How many eggs does a female Gulf sturgeon produce? An individual female will produce between 200,000-500,000 eggs per spawning cycle. She will spawn multiple times during her lifetime. However, mortality from all causes, including natural mortality from mishaps, predators, diseases and water quality, will claim most of the eggs, newly hatched, and juveniles before they reach maturity. So, only a very few eggs will eventually become adult sturgeon. Each female only needs to produce two successful offspring during her life to maintain a stable population. What do Gulf sturgeon eat? Gulf sturgeon feed on tiny aquatic insect larvae and other small aquatic invertebrates during the first few months of their life. However, after their first year of life in the river, Gulf sturgeon do not eat while in fresh water. Intensive feeding occurs in estuarine waters or in nearshore marine waters of the Gulf during winter. By feeding on small shrimp, crabs, worms, and mollusks during the winter, Gulf sturgeon increase greatly in weight. Then, from March-April through October-November, they do not feed. Instead, they use energy stored in their body fat and muscle. During the summer-fall period of fasting, sturgeon may lose up to 20 percent of their body weight. This weight loss is more than compensated for during the next round of winter feeding, when Gulf sturgeon may increase their body weight by as much as 50 percent. Do sturgeon form schools? Unlike many coastal and river-dwelling fishes, Gulf sturgeon do not school but congregate. Behaving more like herd animals, they gather loosely during the winter feeding period and during the summer fasting period. They may also move in looselyorganized groups during the spring and fall migration.

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