Regional Scientists, Fishermen and Government Officials Speak on the Decline of Beluga Sturgeon

Dr. Gussein Bagirov, Minister of Ecology, Azerbaijan, in a letter to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:
“The catch of beluga in the Caspian Sea has significantly dropped during the last decades…and we should recognize that continued fishing pressure on these populations is not affordable. There simply may not be enough mature beluga sturgeon remaining in the Caspian Sea to support a fishery in the future. The population of beluga needs to be restored to healthy levels of abundance with a normal age structure before sustainable fishing can resume. We therefore support the proposition to list the beluga sturgeon as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.” (Oct 2002)

Dr. Vladimir Ivanov, former director of Caspian Fisheries Research Institute in Russia, in his book Biological Resources of the Caspian Sea, published while he was head of the institute:
“Sturgeon resources are in a precarious condition. Without taking effective measures, a moratorium on sturgeon fishing is inevitable. The lives of many generations in the nations that live around the Caspian Sea are closely connected to the fate of the sea. Our main task is to preserve these resources for future generations.” (2000)

Igor, fishing brigade captain, in a taped interview with Caviar Emptor by Russia’s Volga River:
"For the entire time [fishing today], we did not get a single beluga fish. Last year, we also did not have them. There has to be a five-year moratorium on fishing here. We need a complete embargo, and then everything will be reestablished." (May 2002)

Anatoli, third-generation fisherman, and Sergei, local government official, in a taped interview with Caviar Emptor near Astrakhan, the once-thriving caviar capital of Russia:
“We agree about the moratorium. Only this will allow our sturgeon to be saved. Nobody depends on sturgeon. They can live perfectly well on the other fish.” (May 2002)

Fish protection officer, in a taped interview with Caviar Emptor along the Volga River delta:
“There is poaching. Out of ten sturgeon caught, if the fishermen are honest, only two will be stolen. But in some cases, they only turn in one, and nine will be stolen [for the illegal trade].” (May 2002)

Chairman of a fishing cooperative, in a taped interview with Caviar Emptor in Atyrau, Kazakhstan:
“The beluga population is very low in numbers. I remember the time when we caught 54 beluga during three hours of fishing. Now, there is almost nothing. One, two, three, four is all we catch.” (Oct 2002)

President of a fisherman’s union, in a taped interview with Caviar Emptor in Atyrau, Kazakhstan:
“We can see that every year the number of sturgeon is reducing for all species; beluga, sevruga, and Russian. I am a fisherman and I agree with other fishermen. We support sturgeon protection. We need to prohibit fishing.” (Oct 2002)

M Taghi Farvar, Iranian environmental policymaker, in the IUCN special newsletter on sturgeon:
For significant results in Caspian sturgeon restoration, what is needed is “a very long moratorium on sturgeon fishing, especially for the endangered species, at least for a couple of decades. CITES must impose this long-term moratorium, or we must face the more unpleasant option of losing some of the earth’s most wondrous evolution.” (Oct 2001)


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