130 kg of Critically Endangered Sturgeon Caught in Ukraine

Vylkove – State Fisheries Agency of Ukraine reported that a minibus with nearly two tons of illegal fish, including 130 kg of critically endangered Russian and Stellate Sturgeon, was detained near Vylkove by the Border Police detachment together with the newly reformed Odessa Fish Patrol of the State Fisheries Agency and the Police. Both sturgeon species are in the Red Book of Ukraine. They are also protected in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia due to their critically endangered status. This is the biggest arrest for fishing crimes for the past 10 years, therefore, considered to be a huge success for the Vylkove Department of Border Police. Normally, fishing crimes are very challenging to trace down with multiple parties involved and end up with symbolic fines that are nothing compared to the profit of selling rare species.

It’s a really good news. These arrests tend to happen really rarely, so we obviously see that now our law enforcement structures are willing to fight the ‘sturgeon mafia’. On behalf of WWF in Ukraine, I would like to thank all parties involved in the case. We are going to follow up this case as well as previous ones involving sturgeon poachers,” said Natalia Gozak, a Project Coordinator at WWF in Ukraine. “The poached sturgeons appeared to be rather small – probably 2-4 year-old. With spawning starting much later, these fish are young teenagers! And it is still of interest for the organized poaching groups.”

According to the last reports on the case, 40% of the detained Russian Surgeon individuals originate from the Romanian restocking program of 2015 (with confirmed microchips). The rest of the fish had microchips too but the investigator was not able to trace them down. That only goes to show that restocking measures could be considered waste of time and resources as long as sturgeon poaching continues.

In October 2016, the “LIFE for Danube Sturgeons” transboundary project was launched. It is co-funded by the European Commission and led by WWF-Austria. The activities take place in Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia aiming to stop the threat to highly endangered sturgeons in the Lower Danube and the Northwestern Black Sea region caused by illegal fishing and trade. The project intends to achieve significant improvement in sturgeon species status through the enforcement of laws and regulations such as:

  • National workshops facilitate networking and exchange of experiences of all national agencies responsible for implementing regulations concerning sturgeon fishing, aquaculture and trade;
  • Discussions of problems and best practice approaches enhance law enforcement and investigation processes;
  • Invitation for participation of prosecution and judicial authorities strengthen the essential cooperation of the entire enforcement chain;
  • A regional workshop with agencies from neighbouring countries fosters the crucial cross-border coordination and collaboration;
  • Specific training courses, study visits, targeted information packages and newsletters respond to the needs of individual authorities and enhance expertise and practical skills of officials.

WWF-Ukraine and the relevant national law enforcement agencies have already started to work together as part of the project, kicking off with a series of trainings and a high-level meeting between key experts and authorities from Romania and Ukraine. To read more about the meeting, click on the following link: https://danube-sturgeons.org/ukraine-romania-come-together-save-sturgeon-fish/.

Notes to Editors:
The main source of this news article comes from the Ministry of Fisheries’ website and the original press can be found on the following link: http://darg.gov.ua/_zbitki_na_2_mln_zafiksuvali_0_0_0_4116_1.html