World Wildlife Day on the 3rd of March is a global celebration of all the wonderful wild animals and plants found on our planet. On this day we raise awareness of the dangers that threaten the survival of many species. Sadly, some wild species have already become extinct due to habitat loss or overexploitation. Other species have been saved from the brink of extinction due to growing awareness and efforts taken to protect them.
With our project “LIFE for Danube Sturgeons” (2016 – 2020), we are working on the conservation and survival of the sturgeon species that still can be found in the wild in the Lower Danube and the Northwestern Black Sea region.
Unfortunately, five of the six native species are critically endangered and one of those (European Sturgeon) is already extinct in the Danube River basin.
The Beluga Sturgeon (Huso huso) is the biggest freshwater fish in the world. Beluga Sturgeons are listed as Critically Endangered.
Russian Sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii) was formerly the most widely distributed sturgeon species in the Danube river. Today Russian Sturgeons are listed as Critically Endangered.
Stellate Sturgeon (Acipenser stellatus) is also known as Starry Sturgeon, because of the distinctive star-shaped bone plates on its body. Stellate Sturgeons are listed as Critically Endangered.
Sterlet Sturgeon (Acipenser ruthenus) lives entirely in freshwater and unlike other sturgeons does not migrate from the Black Sea. It is listed as Vulnerable.
Ship Sturgeon (Acipenser nudiventris) was never abundant in the Danube River basin. Critically Endangered.
European Sturgeon (Acipenser sturio) was always the rarest sturgeon species in the Black Sea basin and its presence was only documented until the beginning of the 20th century. Today it is listed as Critically Endangered.
As most sturgeon stocks are shared between several countries, any conservation measure needs strong cross-border cooperation. In our project “LIFE for Danube Sturgeons”, seven organisations from six countries team up to take care of a better protection of Danube sturgeons. Together with fishing communities and law enforcement agencies we work to achieve a long-term reduction of illegal sturgeon fishing and trade in the lower Danube region.
Interesting Worldwide Sturgeon Facts:
In total there are 27 different species of sturgeon and paddlefish worldwide. The majority of sturgeon species at risk of extinction occur in Eurasia, whilst several species in the USA have made improvements over the last decades, as a result of strict protection measures.
85% of sturgeon species are considered to be endangered and 63% are listed in IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species™ as ”Critically Endangered”; 4 species are believed to be ”Possibly Extinct”.
History of World Wildlife Day
In 1973 the United Nations General Assembly took a stand against to protect Endangered Species throughout the world, and proclaimed March 3rd as “World Wildlife Day”. Whether plant or animal, the importance of these species in every area of human life, from culinary to medical, could not be understated. At this time hundreds of endangered species were being threatened every year, and extinction was at a staggeringly high rate. CITES was put into place (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) to ensure that the world did not continue to hemorrhage species that would never be seen from again.