Danube Delta protectors warns against „fish apocalypse”

The former governor of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve (RBDD), Malin Musatescu, told Agerpres that even though the pike’s reproduction period has begun, the prohibition measures that are adopted in Romania must take into account the area, climatic conditions and each species, warning that, otherwise, the Danube Delta will see a „fish apocalypse” and the state will eventually be forced to suspend all commercial fishing.

He commented that his struggles with the national authorities related to the issuance of these orders were „epic” in the latest years. Moreover, Malin Musatescu underscored that the Delta is already facing a decline in its fish stocks, not only in pike, and estimated that in the future the authorities might even need to suspend commercial fishing in the Delta, a situation in which the state will have to compensate fishermen in the area.

In 2018, Malin Musatescu imposed the first pike protection measure, by which sport and recreational fishermen were no longer allowed to retain catches of this species.

Musatescu believes that the solution to protect the pike is that the ban on this species be provided for next year in this year’s order.

„The solution would be to establish a year before that the pike will be banned from January 1st and that would be enough. In our country, unfortunately, the ban is badly done because it does not take into account the area, the climatic conditions and the species. This is done on purpose precisely so that the fishermen can get their roe collect. By the way, pike roe is somewhere around 400 lei today, in the Delta, while in Constanta restaurants are ready to give 100 euros per kilogramme at any time. The demand is very big. It’s a tacit understanding between the guys who still make some money with pike roe and those at the [Ministry of – editor’s note] Agriculture, in particular”, stated Musatescu.

The former governor of the Delta also recalled how difficult it was to convince the national authorities to issue the prohibition order earlier. According to him, the 2018 initiative to protect the pike and three other fish species – catfish, pike perch and carp, should have been continued with complementary measures. In his opinion, the Romanian authorities will soon have to suspend commercial fishing in the Delta, due to the decline of the fish stock.

The Coast Guard informed that last week it carried out two actions during which monofilament nets with lengths of 1.375 kilometres and 1.5 kilometres were lifted from strictly protected areas of the Reserve.

Fishermen in the Delta continue to catch pike, although the reproduction period of the species has begun, a period in which its specimens should have been protected, but the fishing ban order has not yet been approved by the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture. Fishermen’s catches of this species are lower than three years ago by circa 35%, according to the head of the Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations in the Danube Delta, Lucian Sanda.

The head of the Federation of Delta Fish Producers’ Organizations, Dan Verbina, announced that commercial fishermen intend stop pike fishing at the beginning of next month, if the prohibition order is not published in the Official Journal by then. Verbina also said that she has begun discussions with the owners of the fish restaurants, so that the pike catches are no longer taken from the fishermen.

The data provided by the Administration of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve show that over 2011-2022, the largest catch of pike, of 217,132 tonnes, was reported in 2018, and the lowest, of 35,096 tonnes, was reported in 2012. From the official reports made by the fishermen until the end of last week, last year they captured about 45 tonnes of pike out of a total catch allowed in the Reserve of 185 tonnes.

Since the end of last year, the current governor of the Reserve, Gabriel Marinov, has stated that the pike must be protected between January 1 and March 15, and voiced hope that the fishing prohibition order will be signed in January by the Ministries of Environment and Agriculture.

Pike is one of the most appreciated species in the Danube Delta, due to its roe, which have a large grain comparable to that of the sturgeon roe, and is the raw material for one of the traditional fish products in the area, with recognition at European level.


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