Sturgeon Watchers in Ukraine patrol together with border guards
The initiative, part of the ‘LIFE for Danube Sturgeons’ project, is inspired by a programme for conservation of spawning sites on the Woolf River in Wisconsin, USA. This approach is used for the first time in Europe to test its practical applicability and support for sturgeon conservation in the region.
The Sturgeon Watchers programme gathered students of the Odessa Ecological and Kherson Agricultural universities. The students spent five days in Vylkove, a vivid fishing community in Odessa Region in the Danube Delta. They were accompanied by WWF team members, representatives of the Danube Biosphere Reserve, Fisheries Patrol inspectors, officials of the State Border Guard Service and also participants in the PRIDE project.
The Sturgeon Watchers’ activities started with a visit to the local museum in Vylkove. “Here, together with the students we’ve realized how diverse and interesting the ‘sturgeon’ past of the town was: a giant beluga in the catch, black caviar that could be canned right here, in Vylkove. Unfortunately, the golden times of sturgeon fishing went by, but by joining efforts with the community, public organizations and authorities, we can significantly improve the state of the sturgeon populations,” said Inna Hoch, WWF expert and ichthyologist.
The Sturgeon Watchers also patrolled the Danube River together with the Vylkove border guards. That had been preceded by a series of thematic lectures of leading sturgeon specialists from the Southern Scientific Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and the Danube Biosphere Reserve (DBR). For the students, the most impressive part while patrolling down the river was the opportunity to witness a 4-year-old Stellate Sturgeon tangled up in a fisherman’s net. The fish was released back into the water exactly like the legal regulations stipulate.
Supported by PRIDE project representatives, students checked the variety of mollusks which are part of the feed base of sturgeon and can be found on shore. “For the first time, we have learned in details about the changes in the natural ecosystem of the Danube and the diversity of the Pontic-Caspian relics, such as mollusks,” said Mariya Nikitina, one of the Sturgeon Watchers team members.
“This practice is very important for the preservation of valuable species of fish both in the Danube and in other freshwater bodies of Ukraine,” said Sergey Yurchuk, Head of the Odessa Fisheries Patrol. “This event has both social and educational functions. It can become an additional leverage in raising awareness among the youth and general public,” he added.
More about WWF’s sturgeon work: http://danube-sturgeons.org/