From 10th to 16th September 2017, the International Symposium on Sturgeons took place for the eighth time, this year at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria. The project “LIFE for Danube Sturgeons” once again stood out as particularly important for the survival of the last remaining sturgeon species in the area of Lower Danube and the Black Sea.
The international forum gathered nearly 300 global experts to share first-hand information and experiences from all over the world on matters related to sturgeons.
The team of “LIFE for Danube Sturgeons” benefitted from the wide variety of delegates by exchanging information on project activities, including in areas of the project work that have been challenging at times, for example, the work with difficult target groups. The inflatable sturgeon located at the entrance of the main hall ‘welcomed’ every single person who joined the event and pointed people towards the exhibition hall where the team had an info booth. The project is the only one that currently operates in the Lower Danube and the Black Sea aiming to stop illegal fishing of the highly endangered sturgeons.
WWF was presented not only by the LIFE project’s team but also by colleagues from Poland, Russia, Georgia, China and USA, who contributed to another great success during the event – the launch of the WWF Global Sturgeon Strategy.
Christina Ciesielski who is the Fisheries Program Manager of Carrier Sekani Tribal Council and currently works with 7 local Native American communities for protection of White Sturgeons at Nechako River in Canada met with interest the session of Jutta Jahrl, Project Manager of “LIFE for Danube Sturgeons”, WWF-Austria, during which experiences in successfully working with fishing communities in the Lower Danube region were shared. Similarly to the approach adopted within the “LIFE for Danube Sturgeons” project, the Fisheries programme in Canada identified the need of more on-site staff to be included in carrying out the activities at the river and to be available to assist in data collection and equipment operation. In the LIFE project this is tackled by training fishermen to do monitoring of sturgeon in the respective areas of the river in Bulgaria.
More on the Fisheries programme of Carrier Sekani Tribal Council can be found here: http://www.carriersekani.ca/programs-projects/fisheries1/.
We highly recommend watching the video of Every Sturgeon Counts produced by the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative to assist in conservation of the Nechako white sturgeon, a protected species under the Species Conservation Act. https://youtu.be/YhrEJUEi-ow
Undoubtedly for many, one of the most controversial sessions during the conference was the discussion forum on production and marketing of caviar and sturgeon products. CITES requirements regarding trade of sturgeons and caviar and its infringements were presented by Colman O’Criodain (WWF International), Lindsey Harris (TRAFFIC) and Jutta Jahrl (WWF Austria) triggering lively discussions among the audience. Together with other experts, they outlined the following areas that need urgent improvement in relation to the CITES regulations: traceability of sturgeon products in trade, reporting of mislabeling and faulty products, combating illegal harvest.
One of the conference’s organisers – Thomas Friedrich, from the Institute of Hydrobiology and Aquatic Ecosystem Management of University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, shared that he was impressed by the strong willingness of the caviar traders to initiate activities worldwide that would increase the consumption of caviar.
According to Ekaterina Voynova, Project Coordinator, WWF-DCP-Bulgaria, “the concern of legality of the product and of poaching was seen as insignificant by some caviar traders. They seemed to be far more worried about quality and future return on investment.”
The conversations on combatting illegal trade and saving sturgeons were taken into greater detail at the planning sessions of WSCS and WWF which agreed to commence joint work on three focus issues: Danube-Black Sea region, stocking, and trafficking. The partnership was officially established through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by Stuart Orr, Freshwater Practice Leader, WWF International, on the behalf of WWF and the WSCS’s President – Harald Rosenthal. And while Harald Rosenthal noted that “the current ‘lay of the land’ in nature and society consists of strong nationalism, profit maximization, regulation circumvention, climate change inaction, and small hydro promotion,” the hopes for improved sturgeon conservation practices have been raised as a result of this new partnership.
“LIFE for Danube Sturgeons” continues its field work in four key countries in the Lower Danube region – Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine, where the project is with particular importance for the survival of sturgeons. It is expected by 2020, that law enforcement will be enhanced and several alternative business cases will be developed, assisting fishermen in finding alternative income resources, and thus, discontinue illegal fishing of protected endangered species such as sturgeons.
*** The presentations from the conference can be found here: