Prohibition of fixed gillnets with larger mesh sizes in the Ukrainian Danube delta means better protection for Danube sturgeons

A new gain in the conservation of Danube sturgeons has been scored. In Ukraine, the fishing regimes for 2018 have been approved and include some major advancements to reduce bycatch of highly endangered sturgeons. Industrial and amateur fishing of all wild sturgeon species has been permanently banned in the Black Sea basin. Thus, even occasionally caught sturgeons should be released into the habitat. However, this year’s edition of the “Fishing regime in the Black Sea basin” includes a prohibition of fishing with fixed gillnets with larger mesh sizes (over 45 mm) used in non-specialised fishing in the Danube delta.

The fixed nets with larger mesh sizes are a major threat to marine mammals (mostly harbour porpoises). Dolphins and sturgeons are victims of the fishing nets with larger mesh sizes (45 mm, usually 70-120 mm). In Ukraine, catching sturgeons is a criminal offence and the same is true for dolphins, as both are strictly protected species. Except for Sterlets, all Danube sturgeon species live mainly in the Black Sea, migrating into the river to spawn. Chances for sturgeons to get caught in the fishing nets are much higher when they enter the Danube river on the way to their spawning sites.

Improvements in Ukrainian fishing regulations, which are important for sturgeon conservation:

  • the prohibition of using thread thicker than 1,2 mm in fishing nets (‘the armored”) where sturgeons are caught on the way to their spawning grounds;
  • limiting maximum height of the fishing drift nets to 6 m (they used to be up to 12 m before);
  • and the newest – prohibition of the fixed gillnets with larger mesh sizes (over 45 mm) for non-specialised fishing in the delta of the Danube river.

All the changes were possible due to the proactive efforts of many Ukrainian specialists, and especially due to the collaboration of the environmental and fisheries sectors. With the new fishing restrictions we have more chances to preserve the valuable wild sturgeons in the Danube river. But further efforts from all responsible authorities are still required for an effective counteraction to IUU (=illegal, unrecognized, uncontrolled) fishing.” says Natalia Gozak, Project coordinator for “LIFE for Danube Sturgeons” in Ukraine.