Romanian police have seized a huge sturgeon and 40 kilograms of black caviar from three homes near the Danube Delta.
The Coast Guard said they went into the homes of three men suspected of poaching in the southeastern town of Harsova on Monday acting on search warrant from a county court. They found a fish which weighed 90 kilograms, 91 jars containing 40 kilograms of black caviar, 51,200 US dollars and contraband cigarettes.
The Coast Guard said police were investigating three men aged between 44 and 51 in connection with the haul.
The three are suspected of transporting and illegally selling sturgeon and caviar, and of using people to illegally fish the sturgeon, which is a protected species.
The Black Sea is the usual habitat of sturgeon. Sturgeon fishing continues although it is illegal. The fish is prized for its black caviar which is considered a delicacy
Caviar is harvested from dead fish. Fishermen wait for a mature female sturgeon to swim upstream and lay their eggs. Once caught, workers will slit open the sturgeon and remove her eggs.
Beluga caviar is the most expensive type of caviar known as ‘black gold.’ At the beginning of the millennium, process ranged from $7,000 to $10,000/kg ($3,200 to $4,500/lb).
The Danube and the Black Sea have six species of wild sturgeon, the sterlet, the thorn sturgeon, the beluga, a massive fish which is prized for its caviar and can live to more than 100, the diamond or Russian sturgeon, the starry sturgeon, and the Atlantic or common sturgeon.
The Danube sturgeon have been around for 200 million years, much longer than humans, but over-fishing, modern dams and corruption mean they are rapidly dying out