World Wildlife Fund: Illegal fishing of sturgeon continues along Danube as authorities bust poachers

Danube Biosphere Reserve, M. Yakovlev, World Wildlife Fund
Danube Biosphere Reserve, M. Yakovlev, World Wildlife Fund
 The World Wildlife Fund says illegal fishing of  sturgeon–a threatened species– continued last year along the Danube in Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine.

The report comes days after Romanian law enforcement authorities announced a crackdown on illegal fishing in the Danube and the Danube Delta. They announced that they had seized two tons of fish, including highly-prized sturgeon.

Wild sturgeon

Law enforcement authorities in Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine however say that poaching remains a serious threat to wild sturgeon.

Ukrainian authorities seized a record number of 116 sturgeons in 2021 in 18 separate cases, including the Russian or Danube sturgeon which is the rarest species and close to extinction in the Danube.

The Romanian branch of WWF said that a 2016-2020 study uncovered massive poaching of the fish which is prized for its eggs along the Lower Danube, particularly in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine.


Although the fishing and the sale of sturgeon are prohibited in all three countries, there were still  57 cases of poaching reported last year, around the same amount as  between 2018 and 2020 when there were 50 to 65 cases reported annually.

„Illegal fishing poses a threat to the well-being of local communities, because it leads to the loss of  fish resource which is a source of  living. In the case of sturgeons, the situation is even worse because the species is threatened with extinction (and) any poaching endangers their survival”, said Cristina Munteanu, leader of the sturgeon initiative for WWF Romania.

She praised efforts by authorities to crack down on poaching, but noted that resources were limited in terms of personnel, boats and fuel.

Higher penalties

She said law enforcement officers needed state-of-the-art surveillance equipment, more staff and higher penalties to act as a deterrent.

The  EU-funded Successful Wildlife Crime Prosecution in Europe (SWIPE) project aims to discourage and ultimately reduce poaching by improving compliance with EU environmental legislation and increasing the number of successfully prosecutions for poaching sturgeon and other threatened species.



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