Ukraine and Romania come together to save ancient sturgeons
Sturgeon populations have declined dramatically despite a ban on industrial fishing of sturgeons in Ukraine since 2000 and the inclusion of all native species of the rare fish in the country’s Red Book of species. Of what were once healthy populations, only a few sturgeon species survive today in the Black and Azov Seas and Danube River basin.
Joint efforts of authorities, scientists, local communities and environmental groups are needed now more than ever. “WWF has been working in the Lower Danube countries for some time to overcome the main threats to sturgeon, including blocking of migration routes, illegal fishing, and other factors,“ said WWF project coordinator Nataliya Gozak. “The purpose of the meeting was firstly to connect the government regulatory bodies of both countries, and to promote dialogue and coordination between Ukrainian and Romanian parties”.
The dialogue took place with the support and participation of the Odessa regional administration, leading experts from the Danube Biosphere Reserves in Ukraine and Romania, the State Agency of Fisheries in Odessa Region, the border guard service and state environmental protection inspectors.
“This has been the first high-level meeting dedicated to the protection of the Red Book sturgeons in the transboundary region in 40 years. Honestly, it is our personal responsibility to identify the problems in this area,” the Director of the Ukrainian Danube Biosphere Reserve Oleksandr Voloshkevych remarked.
“Nature has no borders so we are here to work together”, said Malin-Matei Musetescu, the newly appointed governor of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve in Romania. “The Biosphere Reserve is rich in biodiversity and sturgeons are among its treasures. Different Romanian organizations have already begun working to conserve sturgeon, but there is still a lot to be done. There has been a prohibition on Sturgeon fishing for 10 years (in Romania). During this time, a total of 1 million young fish were released into the Danube, at the cost of €1 million per year”.
During the meeting, participants discussed researching and protection of wild sturgeon habitats, reintroduction and stocking, communication with the market and customers, advocacy at the political level, and communication with fishing communities and businesses.
Among the issues discussed was the significant difference in penalties for illegal fishing of sturgeon between the two countries. In Ukraine, the penalty for illegal sturgeons fishing is approximately €3,400, but if the fish is sold at the market, then it is confiscated with a paltry penalty of only €5-15. On the Romanian side of the Danube, in contrast, the fine for illegal fishing of sturgeon is €1,500, and after a second offense there is a criminal conviction with three years in prison. Most importantly, trade of wild sturgeon in Romania is punished with 6 months in prison.
About the project:
LIFE for Danube sturgeons brings new hope for survival of these unique fish. Visit the official webpage: http://danube-sturgeons.org/