Danger...flying fish!


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Boaters in Florida are being warned of a potential danger when they go out on their boats – flying fish.

Wildlife officials are reminding boaters that this is the season when between 10-14,000 Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) migrate up to 100 miles up the Suwannee River to breed.

Each fish measures anything up to 2.5m in length and up to 90kg in weight – although the average weight is around 18kg – with a hard cartilaginous backbone.

Every year a number of boaters are injured when the sturgeon leap out of the water in what is thought to be courtship behaviour.

The fish can jump up to 2m out of the water and a study in 2004 counted a single fish jumping 1000 times in a single day. In 2006 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission launched a public awareness campaign to alert the boaters to the risk of the jumping fish.

Major Lee Beach, regional law enforcement commander for the FWC's North Central Region is quoted: "We want people to be aware that Gulf sturgeon are returning to the Suwannee, and the risk of injury to boaters does exist. We posted signs at each boat ramp along the Suwannee, explaining the risk of colliding with these fish."

The department will also be patrolling the waters to warn boaters and to urge them to slow down to reduce the risk of impact.

Beach is keen to emphasise that they are not attacking the boaters: "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."

The Gulf Sturgeon is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and is thought to be indicative of the health of the Suwannee River. The government have lauched a series of initiatives to recover the population.

The Sturgeon migrate from April to October, spawn very 3-4 years and females carry an average of 20,652 eggs per kg of body weight.