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Beluga Sturgeon Saved from Poacher!

A female Beluga sturgeon, measuring 2m in length and weighing approx. 200 kg, was saved on February 19th from a poacher near the town of Silistra, Bulgaria. The sturgeon was named “Silvia” by her rescuer. WWF-Bulgaria sturgeon experts went to the scene to tag the precious specimen. The fish was confiscated by the Executive Agency of Fisheries and Aquaculture (EAFA).

During Silvi’s examination, it was found that she was carrying caviar, a product that most likely would have been traded illegally. After making sure she was in good condition, our experts tagged and measured Silvia before she was released back into the wild. Hopefully, despite all the stress she has gone through, her natural survival instincts will take over on the way to the breeding sites where sturgeons from the Lower Danube go to spawn.

The appetite for black caviar from sturgeon has become synonymous with a luxurious lifestyle. Together with the destruction of sturgeon spawning sites in the big rivers, demand for this luxury product is pushing these giants to extinction,” commented Stoyan Mihov, WWF-Bulgaria’s Chief Freshwater Expert. “If Silvia manages to survive all the obstacles and deadly dangers on her way to the spawning site, she will be able to give life to more than half a million young sturgeons that will continue to be the ‘lords of the Danube,’ and among the most important inhabitants for the river’s health,” he continued.

Reaching weights of more than 1 tonne and lengths of up to 5-7 metres, Beluga sturgeon are not only the largest sturgeon species, but also the largest migratory fish in the world. Although they can live up to nearly a century, because they mature at the age of 16-20, they spawn only a few times during their lives. Nowadays, eight sturgeon species exist in the European Union, four of which can still be found in the Lower Danube: Beluga sturgeon, Sterlet, Stellate sturgeon and Russian sturgeon.

All 27 known sturgeon species inhabiting the Northern Hemisphere are listed in the IUCN Red List. Twenty-three of these are considered to be "on the brink of extinction." Consequently, sturgeons “are more critically endangered than any other group of species." WWF works towards engaging fishing communities by sharing expertise for sturgeon and other freshwater fish conservation, as well as raising awareness of sturgeon and their plight among the general public and decision-makers.

For more information about WWF-CEE’s incredible work to protect sturgeons, please see our sturgeon webpage.

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