In contrast to the protected status of Sterlet in other states in the Lower Danube region, where catching wild sturgeon is strictly prohibited, fishing Sterlet in the Republic of Serbia is allowed. The rest of the endangered Danube sturgeon species are already under legal protection in Serbia.
Recently the public enterprise “Srbijašume” banned commercial and recreational fishing of Sterlet in the fishing areas which are under their control for two years: 2018 and 2019. This area covers the stretch of the Danube River below Belgrade, all the way down to the border with Bulgaria; excluded still is a major part of the reservoir above the Iron Gate dams. With this very important step in Serbia, all sturgeons in the whole Lower Danube region are now under protection.
“Our sturgeon team in WWF Serbia strongly supports the decision of the enterprise “Srbijašume”, says Vesna Maksimovic, Project Coordinator of “LIFE for Danube Sturgeons”.
The data that WWF Serbia collected, as part of the project activities and in collaboration with competent authorities and fishermen, shows that Sterlet is highly endangered in Serbia. According to the existing current regulations, it is illegal to catch Sterlet under a length of 40 centimeters and during the spawning season, which is from 1 March until 31 May. Unfortunately, the regulations are often violated, Sterlet smaller than 40 cm are sold on markets in Serbia and during the fishing ban period. Because of this illegal practice, the decision of the public enterprise “Srbijašume” is considered real progress in the conservation efforts to save endangered wild sturgeon species in Serbia.
The two-year ban is welcomed and supported by many international experts, as an important and necessary step for the protection and survival of wild sturgeons in the Lower Danube region.
Sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus) is the smallest of the Danube sturgeons. It lives entirely in freshwater and, unlike other sturgeons, does not migrate from the Black Sea. It is the most widely distributed sturgeon species in the Danube River basin and is listed in the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species™ as “Vulnerable”. Overfishing, mostly for their meat, is a major threat to this species.