Report an alleged illegal fishing
Similarly to people sturgeons have a very long lifespan and reach maturity relatively late, for some species this does not happen until at least 15-20 years of age. This is only one of the various reasons that make sturgeon fish vulnerable to extinction from overfishing so it takes many years for stocks to recover. In total there are 27 different sturgeons and paddlefish worldwide that are listed in the Apendices of CITES since 1998, only 6 can be found in the Danube but 5 are critically endangered (one of those it is believed to be extinct).
A ban was introduced Bulgaria and Romania that prohibits catching the four sturgeon species that are still found in the Danube River and the Black Sea – the Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii), the Sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus), the Stellate (Acipenser stellatus) and the Beluga (Huso huso). Accidentally caught sturgeons have to be returned in the water immediately.
The ban is explicit saying that not only fishing is prohibited but also poisoning, the use of explosive materials or any other substances that can stun the fish. Signs for such actions can be burns, skin hemorrhage, or visible damages on the spine of the fish. In addition, carrying, transporting and selling sturgeons and their products caught in the Bulgarian waters of the Danube and the Black sea is also prohibited, the text of the ban says.
Sturgeon fishing was officially banned in Ukraine in 2000. It is also banned in the other countries neighbouring the Black Sea: Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Turkey and the Russian Federation. However, wild-sourced sturgeon products coming from these countries still find their way to the market.
The control over illegal fishing is difficult, but not impossible. Institutions have their procedures and policies in place to act on it, but what can make a huge difference is the citizens’ engagement and support. If you are a witness of alleged illegal fishing, do not hesitate to report it!
If you think you have information of alleged illegal fishing, we encourage you to report this to the relevant institution in your country:
Report illegal trade of wild caviar
Despite the suspension of worldwide trade in wild caviar, sturgeons continue to be poached due to the high demand for wild caviar. Caviar from Beluga and Russian sturgeons is one of the world’s most expensive foods. The world trade of caviar is carefully monitored and in particular the trade of wild caviar which in Bulgaria and Romania is prohibited.
All sturgeon caviar tins, regardless of their origin – wild or from aquacultures, need to have the CITES labeling. Тhese rules also apply to both wild and aquaculture sturgeon products and include all parts of the fish: caviar, meat, fingerlings, fertilized eggs, etc. CITES is an international agreement that monitors global trade in specimens of wild animals and plants to ensure their conservation and survival. People are allowed to import up to 125 grams of sturgeon products per person without the permit. However, the product must still have the mandatory CITES label, be legally acquired and carried in the personal baggage. The caviar that is most commonly found on the market is from Beluga Sturgeon also known as Huso Huso as well as from Russian Sturgeon and Stellate Sturgeon.
We recommend that customers always look for the CITES label when buying sturgeon products (see the picture ). It must seal the container and contain a product code with 6 elements: 3-letter species code, caviar source (W for “wild”, C for “captive”, F for female bred in captivity with at least one parent originating from the wild), country of origin, year of harvest, registration code of the repackaging plant, lot identification number.
CITES labeling is a powerful tool against the illegal international trade of sturgeons and other endangered species, but not sufficient. It is the customers who can make the real change in saving the Danube’s treasure – sturgeon fish. and support. If you come across caviar of wild sturgeon or tins without the CITES label, do not hesitate to report it!
Related Institutions & Useful Links
These are some of the national and international institutions, organisations and NGOs working on sturgeon issues.
International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR)
EU Life programme
The Global Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC)
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR)
Danube Sturgeons Task Force (DSTF)
International Association for Danube Research (IAD)
World Sturgeon Conservation Society (WSCS)
Danube Delta National Institute, Romania (DDNI)
Wildlife Trade in the EU