STONY BROOK, NY, February 25, 2010 - A first-of-its-kind 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.
The quantitative analysis was conducted through an unprecedented collaboration of scientists from the United States and Kazakhstan. Data used in the study were collected in the Ural River, the only remaining Caspian Sea river where beluga sturgeon reproduce unhindered by dams.
"This is the first time that anyone has calculated sustainable harvest limits for Caspian Sea beluga sturgeon and compared them to present fishing pressure," said Dr. Phaedra Doukakis, Senior Research Scientist with the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University and lead author of the study. "We can finally attach numbers to what people have suspected that current management of Caspian Sea sturgeon fisheries will not prevent further population decline. We hope that this study provides the evidence needed to shift mindsets and management practices," added Dr. Doukakis.
Populations of beluga sturgeon have declined by nearly 90 percent in the past several decades due to the high demand for black caviar, inadequate management, and habitat degradation.
Black caviar, the unfertilized roe (eggs) of the beluga sturgeon, is the most valuable of all caviar, and can be sold for as much as $8,000 for one kilogram (2.2 pounds). There has been grave concern about increasingly dwindling numbers of this already depleted species, which has gone extinct in the Adriatic Sea and is on the brink of extinction in the Azov Sea.
|Contact: Cindy Yeast|
Stony Brook University