How can we help save Europe’s sturgeons?
Of the main rivers draining into the Black Sea, only a handful still offer suitable spawning habitat for sturgeons. One of these, the Rioni River in Georgia, is the last known refuge of the Colchic sturgeon and supports crucial populations of five other critically endangered sturgeon species.
Until Fauna & Flora intervened in 2017, this vital haven had no sturgeon conservation programme. Since conducting the very first baseline studies for these fish in Georgia, we have worked with the government and a range of local and regional partners to combat poaching, trafficking and the other grave threats to sturgeons in the Rioni.
As part of this programme, we have established monitoring teams comprising ‘citizen inspectors’ drawn from communities along the river, whose role is to inform governmental agencies about incidences of poaching. These individuals also engage with fishers, encouraging them to report and release any sturgeon they catch, to stick to legal fishing methods, and to help collect data on wild sturgeon. Fauna & Flora works closely with these local people – from schoolchildren to fish traders – to raise awareness of the plight of the sturgeons in the Rioni – and emphasise their global importance.
Research is a vitally important aspect of this project, and local fishers have played a critical role in this regard, vindicating our efforts to engage constructively with local people and engender widespread support for sturgeon conservation.