World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Wildlife Trafficking Of Critically Endangered Sturgeon


Almost a third of the samples of sturgeon products bought through WWF's market survey were illegal, and 214 cases of poaching related incidents were recorded by authorities.

WWF's new market survey provides first-time evidence of the actual scale of poaching and illegal trade of meat and caviar from wild-caught sturgeon in the Lower Danube Region; specifically in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine. This is one of the last places on Earth where critically endangered sturgeons survive and still reproduce. Illegal sturgeon fishing and trade in their products are often cited as significant threats to many sturgeon populations worldwide. However, until now, substantiated data has rarely been available. The survey provides proof that illegal fishing and trade in wild sturgeon is happening on a regional level and on a rather serious scale. The unique survey methodology combined official data on illegal fishing activities from competent authorities and the results of a large-scale market survey and forensic analysis of meat and caviar samples in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine between October 2016 and July 2020.

Very few market surveys on the sturgeon trade exist, and this is the only one so far that combines 2 state-of-the-art forensic methods, which is crucial to detect illegal trade.” says Arne Ludwig, IZW genetics expert, Co-Chair IUCN Sturgeon Specialist Group and co-author of the report.

Samples were collected at different locations from sturgeon populations that share the same migratory routes along the entire trade chain on the Lower Danube and in the north-western Black Sea region. Testing points included various types of retailers such as shops and supermarkets, restaurants and bars, local markets, aquaculture facilities, intermediaries, fishermen and online offers. All samples underwent DNA[1] and isotope testing.

Read Report

Results and Conclusions

  • Isotope analysis proved that wild sturgeon products were being sold in all four countries. Of the 145 samples tested, 19% (27 out of all 145) proved to be from wild sturgeon - 25 were meat and 2 were caviar;
  • 17 samples of caviar (12% of all samples and 29% of all caviar samples) were sold without : illegal import into the country of purchase, sold without mandatory CITES labelling, or not having correct codes for species or country of origin;
  • Suppliers (salespersons, waiters, etc.) provided deceptive information. In one case, meat sold as farmed was proven to be wild. The reverse was also true in several cases when products declared as wild sturgeon proved to be farmed, or to be meat from European catfish or Nile perch. This indicates a worrying consumer demand for illegal, wild-caught sturgeon products; and
  • Even though all fishing and trade of wild Danube sturgeon species was prohibited in Bulgaria, and only the catch of Sterlet above 40 cm total length was allowed in Serbia until the end of 2018, 214 cases of illegal poaching-related incidents were recorded in Romania (82 cases), Bulgaria (82 cases) and Ukraine (50 cases) between January 2016-December 2020.2 These incidents included seizures of illegal fishing gear for targeting sturgeon, seizures of actual sturgeon in boats or fishing nets, transportation of poached sturgeon, and sale of caviar or meat of poached sturgeon. In Bulgaria alone, 594 illegal hook lines were detected, adding up to more than 23.5 km. Just last month there were several new reported poaching cases in Ukraine and Romania.

This is the first assessment of the volume of sturgeon poaching and trade along the lower Danube and Black Sea – and even if we have to assume that we found just the tip of the iceberg, it shows how serious the impact on the last wild sturgeons still is and how crucial our fight is to save them.” - Jutta Jahrl, WWF Project Manager


  • Enhanced controls of domestic trade;
  • Control of CITES caviar labelling requirements;
  • Improved inter-agency cooperation and coordination;
  • Increased border controls;
  • Use of State-of-the-art forensic analysis; and
  • Conducting more and recurrent market surveys.

Read Report

The survival of these highly threatened wild sturgeon species in Central and Eastern Europe is dependent on continuous and increased efforts to reduce the threat of wild sturgeon trafficking. WWF’s report is designed with the aspiration to shed light on the situation, inform responsible actors, contribute to the intelligence for future enforcement activities, foster the exchange of relevant data among different authorities and between sturgeon range countries, and encourage regular market surveys by the responsible authorities. Opportunities must be seized under the EU Biodiversity Strategy and the upcoming UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) conference in Kunming, China to shut down illegal wildlife trade and preserve freshwater ecosystems in Europe and abroad.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Euro-Med Monitor: Updated Report On The Israeli Massacres During The Military Attack On The Gaza Strip

Geneva – The Israeli forces has killed and maimed many Palestinians in deliberate targeting of unprotected homes with families inside in inhumane military operations, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said. Since the beginning of the current ... More>>

IPPPR: The Independent Panel Calls For Urgent Reform Of Pandemic Prevention And Response Systems

Expert independent panel calls for urgent reform of pandemic prevention and response systems The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response is today calling on the global community to end the COVID-19 pandemic and adopt a series of bold and ... More>>

NGO Coalition On Human Rights: Call For A Stop To Police Brutality In Fiji

A viral video has circulated online showing two police officers utilising disproportionate and excessive force in detaining the suspect, an individual half their size. In the video it shows the man’s head being pressed down on the ground, his arms being ... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

ILO Voices: A Future With Hope, Free From Bonded Labour

By Padma Kumari Tamata Formerly in bonded labour, Padma Kumari Tamata is now a farmer, and grows and sells her own vegetables in the Kanchanpur district of Nepal. My name is Padma and I come from Vashi, a small hamlet in Nepal’s far-west Kanchanpur district. ... More>>

UN: Economic Recovery Under Threat Amid Surging COVID Cases And Lagging Vaccination In Poorer Countries

New York, 11 May — While the global growth outlook has improved, led by robust rebound in China and the United States, surging COVID-19 infections and inadequate vaccination progress in many countries threaten a broad-based recovery of the world ... More>>

Study: Cut Methane Emissions To Avert Global Temperature Rise

6 May 2021 Methane emissions caused by human activity can be reduced by up to 45 per cent this decade, thus helping to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to a UN-backed ... More>>