An Up-stream Battle to Save the World's Sturgeon

01 June 2005 | News story

IUCN - The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland (01.06.2005) - Finding ways to reverse the catastrophic decline of sturgeon and paddlefish stocks worldwide was the mission of more than 500 experts when they gathered in Ramsar, Iran for the 5th International Symposium on Sturgeon.

Sturgeon and paddlefish (Acipenseriformes) are extremely vulnerable to over-harvesting for caviar and meat. Dams, locks, water diversions, dredging, logging and agricultural activities create barriers to migration, whilst pollution and disease threaten many species. Of the 27 species, seven are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 11 as Endangered and six as Critically Endangered.

The meeting, held 9-13 May, was strategically well placed - Ramsar lies on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea which is at the heart of sturgeon distribution. Caspian Sea stocks are harvested by several countries which makes regional cooperation in their conservation and management essential.

The most recent findings on sturgeon and paddlefish biology, conservation, economics, fisheries, farming and trade were discussed. Presentations and posters covered the entire distribution range of the 27 species, from North America to China, including many European river basins.

Experts, technicians and government representatives attending the symposium recognised that the booming European and North American farming industry could not be seen as a solution to the problems facing sturgeon which are driven by social and economic factors.

The Sturgeon Specialist Group (SSG) of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission was represented by more than 10 members, who discussed ongoing and new activities for the period 2005-2008. Main issues on the agenda were the group’s involvement in Red Listing, sturgeon trade and CITES, stock assessments, aquaculture and the creation of a gene bank. Workshops were held on disease and parasites, sturgeon sexing and reproduction biology, genebanks, and caviar processing.

A field trip was organised to the Shahid Beheshti state hatchery which each year releases millions of juvenile sturgeons of the five Caspian species to re-stock sturgeon populations in the sea.

The SSG is launching its new website on 15 June. Take a look at: www.iucn.org/themes/ssc/sgs/sturgeon

For more information contact:

Andrew McMullin, IUCN/SSC Communications Officers, mcmullina@iucn.org; Tel: ++41 22 999 0153