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Diver comes face to face with sturgeon in ocean off Galiano Island

A man was diving in the ocean when he felt something 'bump' into him.

A B.C. man says his heart "just jumped out of my skin" when he came face to face with a three-metre-long sturgeon while scuba diving off of Galiano Island last weekend. 

Zeuss Cochrane was about 15 metres down near off the west coast of the island on Saturday when he felt something "bump" him. 

He decided to look around. 

“This giant fish … its face was right in my face,” Cochrane said. 

He decided to paddle beside the fish, at which point he realized it was a sturgeon — something he hadn't seen before.

“That was pretty amazing,” he said of the encounter, adding he was a bit nervous.

Cochrane, who has completed 50 dives this year already and calls Galiano home, is part of a non-profit biodiversity group that is documenting and cataloguing everything on the island with the hopes of keeping an eye on invasive species. 

Marvin Rosenau, a sturgeon expert who teaches at the B.C. Institute of Technology in the fish, wildfire and recreation program, identified the fish as a white sturgeon. 

“Our Fraser River fish usually don’t move out of the Fraser all that much, but about 10 per cent of them show a signature of marine life,” Rosenau said. “They went out and then they came back in.” 

Having this sturgeon out in the ocean makes him wonder how many more there could be. 

“There still is a question of, you know, how many are there out there? And are they coming or going?” he said. “The debate has always been: How many fish are actually outside of the freshwater component of the Fraser?” 

This face-to-face encounter is uncommon, he said. 

“That’s pretty cool. I think it’s rare,” Rosenau said. “It sounds like he kind of snuggled up to the diver and was kind of playing with him.”