A baby beluga sturgeon found in the Danube

Posted on 08 July 2014    
Baby beluga sturgeon caught in the Danube on Danube Day 2014
© WWF/Стоян Михов
The annual WWF Danube expedition is a real success this year. The team of experts managed to catch a little beluga sturgeon, which had hatched this spring. The 20-cm baby was found in the Danube near the Bulgarian village of Vetren. The sturgeon was named Apostol, then measured, weighed, tagged and released back into the river.

Since 2013 the WWF team has been searching for the endangered Danube sturgeons. Feasibility studies have been undertaken to establish the spawning sites and to determine the status of the sturgeon populations. Up to now, despite the application of several methods, neither fertilized fish eggs, nor baby sturgeons were found.

Originating 200 million years ago, sturgeons are an ancient migratory fish which is today teetering on the brink of extinction.

The Danube River basin preserves some of the most important sturgeon populations in the world today, with Romania and Bulgaria holding the only – still – viable populations of wild sturgeons in the European Union.

Although they have outlasted the dinosaurs, nowadays sturgeons are the most endangered animals on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Until the 19th century, giant sturgeons migrated up the Danube as far as Germany and were important mainstays for many fishing communities. But today five out of the six species native to the Danube are listed as critically endangered.

Danube sturgeons play an important role as indicators of healthy ecosystems. They live mostly in the Black Sea, migrating up the Danube and other major rivers to spawn. They get up to 6 meters long and can live to be 100 years old.

Due to their long life cycles and late maturity, sturgeons are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and to other threats, including pollution and habitat fragmentation (especially due to the Iron Gates dams), with stocks taking many years to recover.
Baby beluga sturgeon caught in the Danube on Danube Day 2014
© WWF/Стоян Михов Enlarge
The baby beluga was measured and tagged
© WWF/Стоян Михов Enlarge
Tagged baby beluga
© WWF/Стоян Михов Enlarge

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