Posted on 12 November 2009
A government decision to overturn a ten-year ban on the fishing of wild sturgeon in the Danube River basin drew protests in the capital this week, led by WWF and a contingent of local NGOs.
– A government decision to overturn a ten-year ban on the fishing of wild sturgeon in the Danube River basin drew protests in the capital this week, led by WWF and a contingent of local NGOs.
The controversial legislation, allowing sturgeon fishing for purposes other than restocking, was adopted in September by the Agriculture and Environment Committees of the Romanian Parliament. The new law in effect legalizes fishing of sturgeons for commercial purposes.
Meanwhile, some Romanian politicians are calling for the elimination of the current ban on gillnet and trawler fishing in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve.
To counter this destructive decision, 34 Romanian environmental NGOs, including “Save the Delta” Association and WWF, organized a bitter protest in the Romanian capital Bucharest on Tuesday.
“The new fishing law practically throws away the EUR 4 billion spent by the Romanian Government for the sturgeon restocking programme, which was developed during the last four years,” said Luminița Tănasie, Director of WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme Romania. “If the 200,000 young sturgeons which were bought for restocking the Danube, are not given the necessary time to mature and reproduce naturally, the sturgeon fisheries will not be able to recover, and both the economical and the ecological loss will be enormous.”
In front of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Rural Development building in Bucharest, protesters on Tuesday held a “sturgeon fair”, offering the public the opportunity to view sturgeons caught in a fishing gillnet. Environmentalists also displayed the photographs of the MPs who proposed the amendments.
At the end of the protest, the sturgeons were sent to the MPs. The MPs who proposed the elimination of the ban on gillnets and trawlers within the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve received the gillnet used during the protest. Each of the MPs also received a letter of protest signed by the 34 participating NGOs, asking them to reconsider their actions and adopt new legislation.
Scientific reports indicate that among the sturgeon species which populate Romanian waters, are the critically endangered (possibly extinct) Ship Sturgeons, the endangered Russian and Beluga Sturgeons, as well as the Sterlet Sturgeon, considered to be vulnerable.
The Black Sea once harboured some of the most productive sturgeon populations. However, research on age structure of sturgeons captured in Romania has revealed a critical decrease in the number of sturgeons born during 1990–99 that survived to sustain the population.
Sturgeons are fished mainly for caviar, although their meat and skin are also widely used in the region. Poorly regulated fisheries have caused severe decline in populations due to overfishing, which almost entirely disrupted the fish species' natural spawning in the Danube River.
Due to concern about the sustainability of international trade in sturgeon caviar and meat, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has been regulating such trade in all sturgeon species since 1998 and has, from time to time, been forced to recommend trade suspensions.
Fishing of sturgeons for commercial purposes was banned in Romania in 2006 for a period of ten years. The relatively long period of prohibition is explained by the long life cycle of the sturgeon (the maximum age being between 24 and 100 years), by the long period necessary for the sturgeon to reach reproductive age (between 6 and 26 years), and by the fact that the sturgeon does not reproduce every year.
The letter of protest was also sent to the Romanian President Traian Băsescu, to the Interim Prime Minister Emil Boc, to the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and to the Romanian National Commission to UNESCO.