The report gives evidence of the illegal trade of wild caught sturgeon in the lower region of the Danube specifically in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Ukraine. Because sturgeon is an endangered species, the trade in both wild and aquaculture fish and its products (primarily caviar) is regulated through CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species). The project looked at official data of enforcement on illegal fishing activities. It also carried out a market survey from October 2016 to July 2020, and collected 145 samples of fresh and processed sturgeon, as well as caviar, from the retail and catering sectors in the four countries. During this period all fishing and trade in wild sturgeon was prohibited in Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. Serbia was permitted to have a restrictive catch of wild sterlet sturgeon above 40cm in length, but even this was only until the end of 2018, after which it became illegal as well.

All the samples were analysed by 3 DNA methods (mitochondrial DNA sequencing for species, microsatellites for identification of species and hybrids, and SNPs (single nucloeotide polymorphism) for hybrid and species identification). In addition, stable isotopes analysis (SIRA) was carried out to give information on whether the fish was wild or farmed based on feedstuffs, and geographic origin. The results indicated that 30% of the samples tested were illegal, 27 samples were from illegally caught wild sturgeon, 17 samples of caviar were in violation of CITES Regulations.

Download the full report here

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