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(NW) Despite Banned, Trade with Wild Sturgeon Continues in Bulgaria and the Region – WWF Report

April 27 (BTA) – In spite of an effective ban, wild sturgeon flesh and caviar are sold freely on the Bulgarian market, a survey of WWF Bulgaria shows. At the same time, law enforcement authorities have impounded an increasingly higher volume of illegal sturgeon fishing tackle, the conservation organization said on Tuesday. A total of 145 samples from sturgeon sold in stores in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine have been collected within the “Life for Danube’s Sturgeon” project between October 2016 and July 2020. These were sent for isotope and DNA analysis to a German laboratory to determine whether the products came from wild sturgeon and their precise species. The results showed that one-third of all samples were offered on the market illegally. In Bulgaria, six of the 32 samples were sold illegally and four came from wild fish. Consumers are also misled as five out of seven samples of fish offered as wild sturgeon proved to have come from fish farms. Four samples were sold as another species of sturgeon, for example beluga – the most expensive sturgeon species, but were actually Russian sturgeon or sterlet. Two out of five samples of caviar purchased in Bulgaria did not have the mandatory labels and CITES codes required by law. Most of the wild sturgeon samples were found in catering establishments in cities along the Danube while illegally sold caviar was mainly offered online. Law enforcement authorities have also provided WWF with information about cases of illegal activities involving sturgeon. Official information cites 82 such cases in Bulgaria, 82 in Romania and 50 in Ukraine. A large portion of reported cases concern illegal fishing gear. Only in three of these there were also illegally caught fish. According to WWF, a step in the right direction was taken with the extension of the ban on fishing by another five years in Bulgaria (until the end of 2025) and indefinitely in Romania. RI/BR