The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) formally announced the reclassification of beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea as "critically endangered" on its Red List. Fishing and international trade should be halted and a stock-rebuilding plan should be initiated immediately.
Beluga sturgeon populations have been decimated in part due to unrelenting exploitation for black caviar —the sturgeon's unfertilized eggs—considered the finest in the world.
"For those of us who have been involved in studying the rapid decline of this species over the past several decades, this reclassification of beluga sturgeon is of great significance and relief," said Dr Ellen Pikitch, Professor and Executive Director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University.
A study of a Caspian Sea beluga sturgeon Huso huso fishery demonstrates current harvest rates are four to five times higher than those that would sustain population abundance.
The study’s results, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Conservation Biology, suggest that conservation strategies for beluga sturgeon should focus on reducing the overfishing of adults rather than heavily relying upon hatchery supplementation.