Posted on 17 December 2019
Wherever there is fishing, there is bycatch, regardless if it is fishing in a river or the sea.
Wherever there is fishing, there is bycatch
, regardless if it is fishing in a river or the sea. One of the main threats to the sturgeons
that inhabit the Lower Danube and Black Sea is that they continue to be incidentally captured
along with other protected species, especially by larger vessels that fish in the sea. Furthermore modern fishing vessels can be equipped with fishing gear that is often undetectable by sight, and designed to catch not only the desired fish species, but also anything else in its path. That is why as part of their work with fishing communities, sturgeon advocates in the project “LIFE for Danube Sturgeon Project” have been stressing how important it is for sturgeons caught by accident to be released back into the wild as soon as possible
The work with fishing communities has been particularly challenging. However, captains and fishing industry leaders have demonstrated that they are well aware of the problem and are willing to take measures in order to reduce the bycatch of endangered fish species
. Modifying fishing gear that allows non-target fish species to escape is often an inexpensive solution that gives sturgeons a better chances to survive, and for their populations to recover to healthy numbers. Such initiatives have often come from fishers themselves, and not only that, they are actually proud to get involved in the protection of the Danube and Black Sea’s flagship species.
A very recent video from a fishing vessel from Bulgaria shows that although bycatch is still a major problem, deaths and injuries of fish can be avoided.
Collaboration between local fishermen and WWF-Bulgaria is crucial for learning more about some of the most mysterious inhabitants of the Danube and the Black Sea – the sturgeons
. By collecting data on sturgeon, WWF’s experts will be able to map out potential spawning sites, migration routes and get to know more about sturgeon behaviour. The journey of 20,000 young Russian sturgeons released by WWF-Bulgaria
in June 2019 has been a huge success. Several fishermen from Bulgaria
, Romania and Ukraine got in touch with WWF to share information
on the sturgeons they had caught, measured and released back into the sea. Later reports came in from fishermen in Krapets and Balchik
that showed photos of the already not so small Russian sturgeons proving that the fish made it into the sea and are in good health.
There is no doubt that without the fishermen’s efforts and goodwill, saving the sturgeon population from complete extinction would not be possible. Working together with local communities will continue to be pivotal for this LIFE project and all WWF field work of in future.
The “Sustainable Protection of Lower Danube Sturgeons by Preventing and Counteracting Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade Project” is coordinated by WWF-Austria and implemented by WWF in Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine, together with Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority in Romania and IZW Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany. It started in October 2016 and will continue until the end of 2020.