“Coup” of the Delta Police: Caviar of 50,000 euros confiscated

Another sturgeon crime case reported in Romania only 4 months after the last major sturgeon poaching incident in Tulcea County

In April this year, WWF-Romania reported that 66 frozen Sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus) were discovered by the Romanian Border Police in a car trunk in Tulcea County. In Romania, it has been illegal to fish for sturgeon since 2006.

Untitled 300x257 - "Coup" of the Delta Police: Caviar of 50,000 euros confiscated
Photo credit: Poliția Română

This time the policemen from the Danube Delta Police Service, together with the policemen from the Argeș Public Order Service, found in flagrante delicto three men, aged between 41 and 46, all from Mehedinți County, who were offering sturgeon sub-products for sale (caviar) to three other men, aged between 51 and 55, from Galati County. The price of sturgeon caviar can cost up to 10,000 Euro per kilo, which makes sturgeon caviar trade particularly appealing despite being illegal. Factors that bring the caviar’s price up is the embedded association of caviar being a sign for luxury and the fact that it takes at least 8 years, sometimes even more depending on the type of sturgeon species, for sturgeons to become mature and ready to reproduce.

The Tulcea policemen from the Delta Police, who carried out the action of catching the 6 people in flagrant crime in Argeș County, made unavailable no less than 23.6 kilograms of black caviar transported in 40 glass containers. The confiscated sturgeon sub-products are estimated to have a market value of approximately 50,000 euros. The products were seized for examination and the car was confiscated.

According to a TRAFFIC report compiled for WWF in 2011, a total of 14 seizures of illegal caviar originating from Bulgaria (27.5 kg in five seizures) and Romania (25 kg in nine seizures) were reported by six EU Member States between 2000 and 2009. The persistent illegal trade in caviar was also demonstrated in a first-time caviar market survey in Romania and Bulgaria, conducted by WWF in 2011-2012, with 30 samples collected and DNA tested. The study confirmed that illegal fishing of sturgeons and illegal trade in caviar continues in spite of the moratoria. The findings demonstrate clear contraventions of CITES labeling provisions and the European Union Wildlife Trade Regulations. In addition, they suggest that caviar of wild sturgeons is offered for sale.

Overfishing – mainly for caviar – remains the main direct threat to the survival of Danube sturgeons.