Posted on 09 June 2016
A global report on their status and suggested conservation strategy
Sturgeons, a group of migratory fish, originated over 200 million years ago when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth. Their appearance has changed little since then, which is why scientists often call them living fossils. They can weigh up to 1.5 tons, reach a length of 8m, live over 100 years, and travel up to 3,000km to spawn. Nowadays, these archaic giants mostly inhabit the great rivers, lakes and inner seas of the Northern Hemisphere.
Although they survived the dinosaurs, today sturgeons are on the brink of extinction. The main reason is our increasing demand for caviar, their unfertilized roe that has become the epitome of luxury food, coupled with habitat loss and migration barriers caused by human activities. The most dramatic declines occurred within the past three decades only when populations crashed, as documented by a drop in catches of over 99%. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers sturgeons the most endangered group of species on Earth: up to 23 of 27 species are on the brink of extinction.
The WWF network has put significant efforts into protecting the last viable populations of sturgeons. Our “Saving Sturgeons“ report outlines the ecological, commercial and cultural importance of sturgeons and the main threats they face globally. It then takes us on a journey to the nine main sturgeon regions in the world and describes the status of sturgeons there, as well as WWF's work to protect them.
WWF’s Network Sturgeon Strategy was developed through discussion of interested WWF offices and programmes and with external WWF partner organizations. It maps out the main areas of work for WWF in the next 5 years on sturgeon conservation. It focuses on:
- Combatting overexploitation
- Restoring life-cycle habitats
- Conservation stocking
The outcomes proposed in the WWF Network Sturgeon Strategy will help to bring resources together in a synergistic way and achieve critical contributions to planned global network outcomes 2025 of the WWF Freshwater and Wildlife Practices.