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Romania, the Leader of the Caviar Export

Autor: Alexandru Nastase 16 Aug 2005 - 00:00
Romania, the Leader of the Caviar Export

It hasn’t been more than 10 years since the adherence to the CITES international convention and Romania received excellent grades from the experts of this organism for the sturgeon fishing, which allowed it to become the world’s number 1 in exporting sturgeon caviar. After becoming the leader, Romania’s position is threatened by its internal problems: the poaching and the aberrant laws.

In the Delta, the sturgeons can be caught in the waters of two of the three main branches of the Danube, Chilia and Sfantu Gheorghe. After Sulina, the other branch, became available for ships, more than one century ago, the fish in there disappeared. Actually, in the meantime, the Sulina Branch has become the main artery that connects the Continental Europe and the Black Sea. This is also the reason for which there were no areas on this branch to be chartered for fishing. In the context in which Ukraine builds the Danube - Black Sea high depth channel Bistroe on the Chilia branch, the experts have noticed that the sturgeons didn’t appear in this branch either. The infernal noise and the intense activity of the dredges that were deepening the Chilia branch led to a paradox: after swimming in the waters of three branches of the Danube, the sturgeons used only the Sfantu Gheorghe branch for reproduction in 2004. However, in spite of that, their number didn’t get smaller, but they are more. This year’s research showed that the stopping of the works on the Chilia branch led to the regulation of the sturgeons’ migration on this branch as well.

POACHING The Danube Delta has suffered a lot from the poaching, after the Revolution. Escapeless, the sturgeons were victims as well. Since the big sturgeons that weighed more than 100 kg couldn’t be captured and transported without drawing attention, the victims were the smaller species. They were caught during the prohibition periods especially with the same tools used for the catching of the carps. The sturgeons begin reproduction at the age of twelve, and because of this, we are now able to see the effects of the massive poaching from the beginning of the 90s. 1999 was the first year in which a professional monitoring of the sturgeons species took place. The World Bank, with an irredeemable loan, financed it. The monitoring was made in the presence of several experts from more American Universities.

ABSURD MEASURES This year, the Romanian authorities took a series of measures that could affect our country’s relation with CITES. First of all, this spring, the Minister of Environment, Sulfina Barbu, said the industrial fishing diminished the number of the sturgeons in the Delta. This statement showed that the Minister didn’t know that there has always been industrial fishing in the Delta, this being the present activity of 300 professional anglers. The (absurd) solution that the Minister proposed was that the anglers should practice sportive fishing and a compensation for the incomes of the 300 anglers, which is about 1 billion lei every year, should be found. This turned into an aberrant prohibition order for the sturgeons. During the spring, the same Minister agreed to the fishing of the sturgeons during the prohibition period! The document is registered with number 17/ 31st of March 2005, has been released by the National Agency for Fishing and Aquaculture, an institution subordinated to the Ministry of Agriculture, and allowed the company Kaviar House to fish sturgeons during the prohibition period. The permit, available through the 15th of July, allowed the company to capture sturgeons for reproduction in three capture areas on the Danube. This special authorization came with the environment authorization for special operations number 128/2005, released by ARBDD (Administration of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve) and signed by the institution’s chief, Paul Cononov, the ashman-governor. The documents allowed the poaching. This way, even though the authorization released by ARBDD was saying that the Administration would monitor the capturing of the sturgeons, it also said that it would do this just by forcing Kaviar House to "notify each capture". In fact, anyone could fish the sturgeons for their caviar without notifying anything to the ARBDD. Moreover, Kaviar House was allowed to fish in some areas that had already been chartered to another company.

THE EXPLANATION The National Agency for Fishing quickly agreed with ARBDD about the capture and the fishing areas and even though it hadn’t been consulted, like the laws say, the Administration jumped to releasing the environment authorization in the same day, which led to the braking of another commercial contract as well. Even though the ashman-governor says it was all legal, no one has ever benefited from being allowed to fish during the prohibition, not even in the times of Ceausescu. Then, the Danube Delta had been governed arbitrary, in function of the economical needs.

UNKNOWNS FOR THE SCIENTISTS Although they have been studying them for more than 100 years, the Romanian scientists still have a lot to find out about the sturgeons. Their main unknown is referring to the migration and the behavior during the spawning-time (including the behavior of coming back to the initial place of their birth/reproduction) of the main sturgeon species in the Danube. Then, another unknown is the localization in the inferior Danube (in the Romanian territory) of the essential habitats (for the eggs’ deposition and hibernation) of the sturgeon species in the Black Sea. They also don’t know many things about the behavior in the first phases of the lives of the sturgeon species in the Danube, and about the way in which the young sturgeons in the Black Sea swim down the stream (including here the group behavior). The researches are yet to discover the genetic map of the sturgeons in the Black Sea, and the mechanisms that determine the dynamics of the sturgeon species in the sea. The research methods aren’t in perfect tune in what concerns the studying of the group behavior of the young sturgeons during different stages of their lives, in the Danube and on the shore of the Black Sea.

NUMBER 1 In 2001, some strict regulations regarding the sturgeon species were introduced. They were referring to seals for each captured fish or to reports of the captures at every 24 hours. These measures determined the CITES convention to modify Romania’s quotation. However, in the same time, they decided for the decrease by 50% of the quotations of the countries from the area of the Caspian Sea, like Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran, because these states didn’t take any measures for monitoring the sturgeons. Together, the two CITES decisions made Romania the world leader of the sturgeon caviar exporters.
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