Experts from Hungary, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Austria and Bulgaria conducted a workshop and training on the protection of Danube sturgeons and methods of halting the illegal trade in caviar from wild sturgeon. Over 80 representatives of Bulgaria’s Border Police, Customs Agency, the Ministry of Environment and Water, the Bulgarian Agency for Food Safety and the Executive Agency for Fisheries and Aquaculture joined the two-day event in Sofia.
Bulgaria and Romania are the only countries in the European Union which have viable populations of wild sturgeons.
“It is important to learn from each other if we want to be successful in the fight against wildlife crime”, said Grant Miller, Head of the CITES unit, part of the UK’s Customs authority, based at London’s Heathrow Airport.
During the meeting, participants had the opportunity to share their views and opinions, and ask questions about the identification of items that may contain banned products such as caviar from sturgeon.
“A new trend is to package caviar as a work of art – the boxes are painted to make them look like something else”, said Jaap Reijngoud, an expert in the field of protection of flora and fauna listed under CITES and EC regulations.
“It is important to understand that crimes against wildlife are just that – crimes. Behind them are human greed and criminal gangs”, Miller said.
Sertaç Yapici, Customs and Trade Expert at Turkey’s Ministry of Customs and Trade, described the capture of illegal caviar shipments traveling to the well-known resort of Antalya. “Sturgeon caviar is very foreign to the taste of Turkey, it is not a traditional food we consume. Probably the increasing traffic in caviar is destined for tourists in Antalya”, he said.
Experts explained that in the countries of consumption of sturgeon products there is a new trend – caviar from wild sturgeon is now being used in cosmetic products.
Other threats to sturgeon in the Danube were also discussed – for instance, the construction of new dams which obstruct sturgeon migration.
“It is important to preserve the Danube as a wild river, and not to turn it into a canal. Today we have the technology to adapt the ships to the river, and not the river to the ships”, said Ivan Hristov, Head of Freshwater at WWF Bulgaria.
All experts recommended to their Bulgarian colleagues to enhance cooperation between Bulgarian institutions as well as with their equivalents outside Bulgaria.
“None of us can tackle this problem alone. My advice is that each of you seeks a colleague at the same position in the UK, so you can quickly and efficiently exchange information at the slightest suspicion of crimes against wildlife”, Miller said.
At the end of the event participants received certificates for having completed WWF’s training.
Download presentations from the event