Both sides of the river protection confirmed for Danube sturgeons | WWF
Both sides of the river protection confirmed for Danube sturgeons

Posted on 26 January 2012

Bulgarian authorities have confirmed that a one year ban on sturgeon fishing in the Danube river is to be extended for a further four years.  Bulgaria's original ban ended the anomaly of sturgeon receiving protection only on the Romanian side of the Danube, following that country's 2006 announcement of a 10 year sturgeon fishing ban. ,
Sofia, Bulgaria: Bulgarian authorities have confirmed that a one year ban on sturgeon fishing in the Danube river is to be extended for a further four years.  Bulgaria's original ban ended the anomaly of sturgeon receiving protection only on the Romanian side of the Danube, following that country's 2006 announcement of a 10 year sturgeon fishing ban.

“It is of utmost importance that Bulgaria has finally joined Romania in this very important measure”, said Vesselina Kavrakova, Programme Manager of the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme in Bulgaria. “The Romanian moratorium came into force in April 2006, but considering that the Danube serves as a national border between Bulgaria and Romania, a one-sided ban was not effective”.

Originating 200 million years ago, sturgeons have outlasted the dinosaurs, but today most species are critically endangered according to the IUCN red list. Bulgaria and Romania hold the only viable populations of wild sturgeons in the European Union, but five of the six native sturgeon species in the Danube are critically endangered.

“Overfishing because of persistent illegal trade in their caviar involving Bulgaria and Romania, is the biggest cause for concern, but habitat alteration, including hydropower, and pollution are also contributing causes”, Kavrakova said.

Caviar is one of the most expensive wildlife products. Among the sturgeon species native to the Danube basin is the Beluga sturgeon famous for its expensive caviar.

Dams such as the Iron Gates between Serbia and Romania have cut off the migration routes of sturgeons, which has led to loss of spawning habitats, impacting sturgeon populations. According to the World Sturgeon Conservation Society, the Danube is the only large river system in Europe where protection of existing but dwindling sturgeon stocks is still possible.

“What we need now, is to see various activities conducted in support of sturgeon populations, for example restocking and monitoring of the status of sturgeons. We need to see an effective information campaign among fishing communities and a true enforcement of the ban”, Kavrakova said.

“We want to see that both Romania and Bulgaria raise awareness among enforcement agencies of the illegal caviar trade and strengthen their capacity to control and monitor the trade”, she added.

The Danube, as one of the major feeder rivers and estuaries of the Black Sea, is crucial for sturgeons. Most sturgeons live in estuaries and coastal waters but swim upstream to spawn. The Black Sea is one of the most important sturgeon fisheries in the world, second only to the Caspian Sea.
It is estimated that world sturgeon populations have declined by as much as 70 per cent in the past few decades.
© WWF / Hartmut Jungius