Study: Illegal caviar trade endangers sturgeon populations in Romania, Bulgaria, even if fishing still prohibited

The last wild sturgeons in Romania are being endangered by illegal caviar trade in Romania and Bulgaria, according to a recent study by WWF Romania and TRAFFIC. The study, which used 30 caviar samples in Romania, Bulgaria and Austria, and collected from stores, restaurants, markets and sturgeon farms, revealed that 4 in 5 samples which were said to be from wild sturgeons were in fact from beluga sturgeons, which is almost extinct. The analysis confirmed that in Romania and Bulgaria, sturgeon fishing is still happening, despite the interdiction imposed in 2006 in Romania and in 2011 in Bulgaria, which should only be lifted in 2015.

The study also revealed that labeling rules imposed via the Convention for International Trade with Wild Species of Flora and Fauna are not entirely complied with. In most cases, something is missing from the label, or another content that the real one is mentioned.

WWF Romania started a project Life +, via which it hopes to create viable conditions for sturgeons in the Danube by 2015, and asses whether the fishing prohibition needs to be extended beyond 2015.

The environment agency assessed whether fishermen agree with prohibition, and found that even if most of them agree this is the best solution, they are still reluctant. The majority in fact asked for the total prohibition to end as son as possible, while decision makers argue studies are needed before extending the prohibition measure.

When it comes to the public, most of them – 60 percent – did not know that sturgeon fishing is prohibited, while the majority – 87 percent – do not know the difference between legal and illegal caviar.

A kilogram of caviar costs around EUR 1,000 in stores, where products come from fisheries, while on the black market, where only caviar from wild sturgeons is sold, it can cost four times more.

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