On the 13th and 14th of March 2019, in Bucharest, regional law enforcement representatives concerned with Danube sturgeon conservation and WWF sturgeon experts from Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine participated in the first regional workshop that aimed to share their experiences and build bridges between countries to save these magnificent fish.
The Pan European Action Plan for Sturgeons and the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking received much interest, leading to a fruitful discussion regarding how law enforcement authorities can engage and work at the national and regional levels to combat poaching and illegal activities related to sturgeons.
Special guest, Paul Meuleneire from the Brussels Airport Customs spoke about the challenges of wildlife crime, and how to track illegal activities at such an important international airport. He also presented tools used by Brussels Airport Customs such as EU-TWIX to ease its work combating illegal wildlife activities, data collection and sharing.
The importance of international cooperation was emphasised by all participants, and there is a general regard that this collaboration will deepen as a result of this conference. Romania and Bulgaria have already implemented collaborative protocols, joint actions and sometimes even cross-border activities between national institutions. In the case of Serbia and Ukraine, there are initial actions and there is a tendency towards better partnerships in the future.
Preliminary results of a study made under the LIFE for Danube Sturgeons Project reflected the market situation of sturgeon products in all four countries. Partners from the Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research and Agroisolab Germany came and explained their testing methods of sturgeon samples, and the validity of these results. Participants discussed how this type of tests can support their efforts to detect illegal products.
This first meeting of its kind was successful in bringing together people who work towards the same purpose, who are open to learning from each other to improve the effectiveness of their activities, and by regionally joining forces to protect sturgeon and a New Deal for Nature and People in the Green Heart of Europe.