Posted on 12 June 2019
More than 20,000 baby Russian sturgeons were successfully released into the Danube this week in an effort to boost the wild populations of the critically endangered fish – one of the four remaining native Danube sturgeon species.
For many years, WWF Bulgaria has been working to protect sturgeon and their natural habitats. In 2014 and 2015, WWF reared and released over 50,000 young Sterlets.
This week’s release of Russian sturgeons, which were once the most abundant sturgeons in the Danube, provides new hope for the species.
All the young sturgeons are with proven Danube origin – this is important for their success in adapting to the natural environment and to make sure that the natural populations are not exposed to further risk by introducing non-native competitors. The baby sturgeons were reared in an aquaculture facility in conditions close to what they will face in the river.
WWF experts expect the young fish will now find a suitable place to feed and grow, before setting off on their journey to the Black sea. WWF calls on fishermen downstream to protect the little ones, as their spiny bodies can get entangled in the fishing nets and if caught accidentally, should be released immediately back in the river.
Currently, there is a complete ban on sturgeon fishing in the Danube and the Black sea.
But larger fish, which swim upstream to reproduce still fall prey to poaching because of the high price their caviar and meat fetches on the black market.
WWF warns that any product from wild sturgeons are illegal and that the illegal trade harms the few remaining populations of sturgeons, the local fishermen’s future income and aquaculture facilities, which have made huge investments to produce sturgeons in accordance with environmental and health legislation.
Classified by the IUCN as the world’s most endangered group of species, sturgeons are long lived and reproduce only a few times in their life. It will take more than a decade before these Russian sturgeons return to create a new generation. This is why they are very vulnerable to overfishing and poaching.
WWF is committed to making sure their habitats are protected and that they are allowed to grow and thrive, or we risk losing a species which has survived for over 200 million years.