WWF welcomes first Bulgaria ban on Danube sturgeon fishing

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The Independent Online

The environmental group WWF welcomed on Monday Bulgaria's ban on catching sturgeon in the Danube, as the species faces extinction due to overfishing for its caviar.

The WWF welcomed the one-year ban, imposed in March, as "a great step" to help save the species.

"Danube sturgeons, the ancient migratory fish that are today teetering on the brink of extinction due to overfishing because of their valuable caviar, have new hope for survival," it said in a statement.

The ban was the first restriction on sturgeon fishing on the Bulgarian side of the Danube, and the country's Fisheries and Aquaculture Agency has said it plans to impose a further five-year ban in 2012.

Neighbouring Romania already imposed a 10-year moratorium on sturgeon catching in April 2006.

But this one-sided ban could not have any impact if fishermen across the river in Bulgaria were still catching sturgeons, the WWF said.

The Black Sea is the second largest sturgeon fishery in the world after the Caspian Sea, and the Danube upstream is one of the most important spawning habitats for giant Beluga sturgeons.

The ancient fish, which outlasted the dinosaurs, has been critically endangered by overfishing for its caviar, which can cost over 6,000 euros (8,900 dollars) per kilogramme, the WWF said.