Threats for sturgeons
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) states sturgeons as the most threatened group of species in the world. The Danube remains one of the last rivers in Europe where sturgeon still breed naturally, a reason why WWF puts a focus on the protection and conservation of their natural habitats. In the past nine years the team of WWF-Bulgaria monitored the river course from the village of Novo Selo to the town of Silistra, studying the habitats of the last remaining sturgeons and working with local communities for their conservation. Over 77,000 tagged sterlets, Russian sturgeons and belugas were released in the river in order to boost their natural populations in the wild.
Ichtyologists emphasize that sturgeons, as well as other species of migrating fish, play an important role as an indicator of healthy river ecosystems. Unfortunately, dam, dike and hydro plant construction, as well as aggregate mining from the bottom of the Danube River create insurmountable barriers along their migration routes; they change the natural water flow and lead to fragmentation and destruction of the fishes’ habitats. In the long term these human activities, along with others such as overfishing and water pollution, can lead to the extinction of the sturgeons.
At present in Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Serbia sturgeon fishing on the Danube and in the Black Sea is banned completely. Still a great part of the adult individuals that enter the river to reproduce fall victim to poachers. The reason is the high value of their role on the black market. WWF warns that any product from a wild sturgeon is illegal and it brings damage to both the few surviving sturgeon populations, as well as to the future income of the local fishing communities.