Report 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 vulnerable to extinction from overfishing so it takes many years for stocks to recover. In total there are 27 different species of sturgeon and paddlefish worldwide , only 6 could be found in the Danube but 5 are critically endangered (one of those is already extinct in the Danube River basin).

A ban was introduced in 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 Sturgeon (Acipenser stellatus) and the Beluga Sturgeon (Huso huso). Accidentally caught sturgeons have to be returned in the water immediately.

The ban is explicit in saying that not only fishing is prohibited but also poisoning, the use of explosive materials or electric devices, 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 either in the Bulgarian or Romanian waters of the Danube and the Black sea is also prohibited, the text of the ban says.

Sturgeon fishing was officially prohibited in Ukraine in 2000. It is also banned in the other countries neighbouring the Black Sea: Georgia, Turkey and the Russian Federation. However, wild-sourced sturgeon products coming from Danube and Black Sea 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:

Bulgaria: Executive Agency of Fisheries and Aquaculture (EAFA) at the Minister of Agriculture and Foods

Romania: www.anpa.ro/

Serbia: Fish warden of the respective fish area user (PE Srbijašume: 1187-1150 km, 1075-1040 km, 940-845 km; WMC “Vode Vojvodine”: 1433-1297 km, 1297-1233 km; PE “Vojvodinašume”: 1233-1187 km, 1112-1075 km; PE “Đerdap National Park”: 1040-940 km; “Rivers Protect” d.o.o: 1150-1112 km). In addition, contact the Republic inspector for environmental protection in the field of protection and use of fish resources and on the territory of AP Vojvodina Provincial inspector for environmental protection in the field of protection and use of fish resources.

Ukraine: Hotline of the State Agency of Fisheries of Ukraine 0-800-50-52-50.

Farmed Beluga Caviar Tin  ©  WWF-David Prokop

Farmed Beluga Caviar Tin © WWF-David Prokop

Farmed Beluga Caviar Tin © WWF-Jutta Jahrl

Farmed Beluga Caviar Tin © WWF-Jutta Jahrl

Report illegal trade of wild caviar

Despite the suspension of worldwide trade in wild caviar from all major stocks , sturgeons continue to be poached due to the high demand for wild caviar. Caviar from Beluga is one of the world’s most expensive foods. The international trade in caviar is carefully monitored and in particular the trade of caviar from wild sturgeons which is prohibited in Bulgaria, Romania and many other key range states.

All sturgeon species are listed in CITES – the international agreement that monitors global trade in specimens of wild animals and plants to ensure their conservation and survival.

All sturgeon caviar tins or glasses, regardless of their origin – wild or from aquaculture, need to have specific CITES labels. Traditionally, 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. Caviar from aquaculture often comes from Siberian, Amur or Kaluga Sturgeon or from hybrids.

We recommend that customers always look for the CITES label when buying sturgeon caviar (see the pictures to the left). It must seal the container and contain a product code with 6 elements:

  • Standard species code (three-letter code for the identification of sturgeon species, hybrids and mixed species);
  • Source code of the caviar or specimen (“W” for sturgeon harvested from the wild; “C” for captive-bred sturgeon; “F” for caviar produced from a female born in captivity and where at least one parent originated in the wild);
  • Code for the country of origin (two-letter ISO code, e.g. BG for Bulgaria, DE for Germany, FR for France, CN for China);
  • Year of harvest or repackaging;
  • Official registration code of the processing or repackaging plant (issued by the national CITES management authority);
  • Lot identification number or CITES export permit or re-export certificate number (caviar tracking system used by the processing or (re-)packaging plant).

CITES labeling is a powerful tool against the illegal international trade of sturgeons and other endangered species, but not sufficient. It is the retailers and customers who can make the real change in saving the Danube’s treasure – sturgeon. If you come across caviar of wild sturgeon or tins without the CITES label, do not hesitate to report it!

More on this can be found here in our Caviar brochure.

Bulgaria: Bulgarian Food Safety Agency

Romania: www.gnm.ro

Serbia: Republic inspectorate for environmental protection in the field of protection and use of natural goods, and on the territory of AP Vojvodina Provincial inspectorate for environmental protection in the field of protection and use of natural goods.

Ukraine: Hotline of the State Agency of Fisheries of Ukraine 0-800-50-52-50.

Beware of exporting or importing caviar or other sturgeon products

International shipment of sturgeon or their products must always be accompanied by the appropriate CITES documents, issued by the relevant national CITES Management Authorities. In general, import or (re-)export without a valid CITES permit is an offence. However, travelers are allowed to import up to 125 grams of sturgeon caviar per person without a CITES permit. Nevertheless, the tin must still have the mandatory CITES label, be legally acquired, carried in the personal baggage and may not be used for commercial purposes.

If you want to bring sturgeon caviar or other products from abroad or want to take it out of the EU, please make sure to follow all relevant regulations to avoid problems with the law.

More on this can be found in our Caviar brochure.

Bulgaria: National Customs Agency

Romania: Direcția Regională a Vămilor

Serbia: National Customs Directorate and the Ministry of Environmental Protection – Group for CITES implementation

Ukraine: Hotline of the State Agency of Fisheries of Ukraine 0-800-50-52-50.