On June 5, Rosen Bonov, a fisherman from the Bulgarian town of Belene on the Danube river, contacted our WWF team with the news that a young sturgeon has been caught in his nets. The species was identified as Russian Sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii), probably hatched last year. Our WWF Bulgarian team of sturgeon experts measured and tagged it and took a genetic sample of the fish and then the fisherman himself released the sturgeon back into the river.
“This is the first Russian Sturgeon that we have the chance to tag in 5 years and for us it is encouraging and exciting news”, says Ekaterina Voynova, Project Coordinator “LIFE for Danube Sturgeons” in Bulgaria.
Russian Sturgeon lives in shallow coastal areas of the Black Sea and migrates to spawn in deep parts of the Danube river. A complicated pattern of spawning migrations includes spring and autumn runs. Individuals migrating in spring enter freshwater just before spawning. Males reproduce for the first time at 8-13 years, females at 10-16. Females reproduce every 4-6 years and males every 2-3 years in April-June, when the water temperature rises above 10°C. Larvae drift on currents and juveniles then move towards shallower habitats, before migrating to the sea during their first summer. They remain at sea until maturity.
Russian Sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii) was formerly the most widely distributed sturgeon in the Danube river. Today the species is very rare and listed in IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species™ as “Critically Endangered”.
“For the conservation of the endangered Danube sturgeons, the support coming from local communities is crucial.” says Ekaterina Voynova “And we are very grateful to Rosen Bonov from Belene for giving such a positive example, which I hope will motivate other fishermen to help us in our conservation efforts”, added Ekaterina Voynova.
During the first year of the “LIFE for Danube Sturgeons” project, WWF Bulgaria provided two theoretical and practical trainings on methods for monitoring of sturgeons for local fishermen. The newly obtained knowledge, combined with the fishermen’s expertise and skills, is viewed as a possible alternative source of income for the fishermen. More trainings for fishermen have been planned for this year.