Danube sturgeon get protection on both sides of the river



Posted on 02 May 2011  | 
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.
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.
© naturepl.com / Frei / ARCO / WWFEnlarge
Sturgeons, an ancient fish on the brink of extinction due to luxury demand for caviar, can now swim more easily in the Danube after Bulgaria imposed a sturgeon fishing ban on its half of the river.

WWF has long sought the new Bulgarian ban, not least because it matches the ban in force for the last five years on the opposite, Romanian, bank of the river.

"Bulgaria is really giving the sturgeons a break, joining Romania in this very important measure," said WWF sturgeon expert Jutta Jahrl. "Considering that the Danube serves as a national border between Bulgaria and Romania, a one-sided ban cannot have any impact if fishermen on the other side are still catching the fish”.

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. Originating 200 million years ago, sturgeons have outlasted the dinosaurs, but today most species are classified as critically endangered.

The impact of dams

Dams such as the Iron Gates between Serbia and Romania  have isolated the sturgeon from spawning areas, but the major culprit is demand for caviar - one of the most expensive wildlife products, fetching retail prices of EUR 6,000 and up per kilogram.

Caviar market still pressures wild sturgeon

Although most caviar is now supplied through aquaculture, loopholes such as the fishing ban on just one bank of the river add to pressures on wild sturgeon populations. Lack of consistent labelling requirements and of knowledge among caviar consumers are also key problems.

A positive step forward for the species

“This is the first time Bulgaria has banned sturgeon catching in the Danube”, said Ivaylo Simeonov, Head of Unit Management and Monitoring of Fisheries at Bulgaria’s National Agency of Fisheries and Aquaculture. “We did have a ban on sturgeon catching in 2008, but only in the Black Sea”.

The one-year ban on the part of Bulgaria is a prelude to a five-year ban which is planned to start in 2012.

“At the Fisheries Agency we have already prepared the terms of the five-year ban”, Ivaylo Simeonov said. “Under the terms of the proposed ban, various activities in support of sturgeon populations will be carried out, for example restocking of fish populations and monitoring of the status of sturgeons”.

An information campaign among fishing communities and better enforcement of the ban are also in the pipeline for 2012.

Video: Saving The Lords of The Danube



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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.
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.
© naturepl.com / Frei / ARCO / WWF Enlarge

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