Illegally caught: 130 kg of critically endangered sturgeon in Ukraine | WWF

Illegally caught: 130 kg of critically endangered sturgeon in Ukraine

Posted on 10 July 2017    
Until the 19th century, giant Beluga sturgeons migrated from the Black Sea up the Danube as far as Germany and were important mainstays for many fishing communities.
WWF-Ukraine and the national agencies have already started to work together with a series of trainings and a high-level meetings.
© naturepl.com / Frei / ARCO / WWF
Vylkove – The Ukrainian Ministry of Fisheries reported that a minibus with nearly two tons of illegal fish, including 130 kg of critically endangered Russian and Stellate Sturgeon, was detained near Vylkove by the newly reformed Odessa Fish Patrol of the state fisheries agency and the police. Both sturgeon species are in the Red Book of Ukraine. They are also protected in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia. 
 
According to findings, 40% of the detained Russian sturgeon individuals originate from Romanian restocking program of 2015 (with confirmed microchips). The organised sturgeon poaching undermined EU efforts on restoring the population. This is the biggest arrest for fishing crimes for the past 10 years, therefore, considered to be a huge success for the Vylkove Department of the Border Police. Usually, fishing crimes are very difficult and challenging to track down, as multiple parties are involved, and end up with symbolic fines that are in stark contrast to the high profit of selling these rare fish.

“It’s really good news. These arrests used to happen rarely, so we obviously see that our law-enforcement structures are willing to fight the “sturgeon mafia”. On behalf of WWF in Ukraine, I would like to thank all parties involved in the case. We are going to follow it through as we have done with all previous cases involving sturgeon poachers,” said Natalia Gozak, a Project Coordinator of WWF-Ukraine. “The poached sturgeons appeared to be rather small - probably two to four year-olds. With spawning starting much later, these fish are young teenagers! And they are still of interest to the organized poaching groups.”

The transboundary project “LIFE for Danube Sturgeons” launched In October 2016 is aiming to support such law enforcement efforts. It is co-funded by the European Commission and led by WWF. Activities implemented in Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia aim at stopping illegal sturgeon fishing and trade in order to reduce pressures on endangered sturgeons in the Lower Danube and northwestern Black Sea region and include:
  • national workshops to facilitate networking and exchange of experiences of all national agencies responsible for implementing regulations concerning sturgeon fishing, aquaculture and trade;
  • discussions of best practice approaches to enhance law enforcement and investigation processes;
  • involvement of prosecution and judicial authorities to strengthen essential cooperation of the entire enforcement chain;
  • a regional workshop with agencies from neighbouring countries to foster crucial cross-border coordination and collaboration;
  • training courses, study visits, targeted information measures and newsletters tailored to the needs of specific authorities to enhance their expertise and practical skills.
WWF-Ukraine and the relevant national law enforcement agencies have already started to work together under this project, kicking off with a series of trainings and a high-level meeting between key experts and authorities from Romania and Ukraine. Read more about the meeting: http://danube-sturgeons.org/ukraine-romania-come-together-save-sturgeon-fish/.
 
***Source: http://darg.gov.ua/_about_agency_0_13_menu_0_3.html
Until the 19th century, giant Beluga sturgeons migrated from the Black Sea up the Danube as far as Germany and were important mainstays for many fishing communities.
WWF-Ukraine and the national agencies have already started to work together with a series of trainings and a high-level meetings.
© naturepl.com / Frei / ARCO / WWF Enlarge

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