Wild sturgeons are mainly caught in nets; both fixed and drift nets. Their main marketed products are meat and caviar (roe or eggs). They are among the world's most valuable wildlife resources.
Due to the lucrative market and high demand for caviar, sturgeon aquaculture developed making their meat and products (caviar) available on the market all year round.
Sturgeon are among the oldest living species of fish, they have been around for more than a 120 million years and have retained many primitive characteristics, suggesting what fish may have looked like during the age of the dinosaurs.
Sturgeons are occasionally seen jumping clear out of the water (breaching). It has been suggested that they do that to try to rid themselves of parasites. Early settlers in America reported huge schools leaping from the water and considered sturgeons to be navigational hazards.
Among fishes, sturgeons are very slow-growing and long-lived. Once they reach adult size, sturgeons have no natural enemies except humans. The largest recorded sturgeon was an Atlantic sturgeon measuring over 4 m long and weighing over 370kg. An American officer during the American Revolution had his leg broken by a ten foot sturgeon that leaped into his boat as he rowed across the Potomac at Georgetown.
Since 1998, international trade in all species of sturgeons has been regulated under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) owing to concerns over the impact of unsustainable harvesting of and illegal trade in sturgeon populations in the wild.
There is illegal trade in caviar, and poaching by criminal gangs is common. Although each of the Caspian Sea countries had internationally agreed upon quotas on the amount of sturgeon that can be caught, it is estimated that poachers catch at least 10 - 15 times the legal amount.
Sturgeons are vulnerable to over-exploitation because they are long-lived, slow to mature and depend on large rivers to spawn. The value of wild sturgeon caviar is very high and there is a substantial illegal fishery for sturgeon. Consequently many species are in rapid decline.
Farmed sturgeons are considered a good alternative to most wild sturgeons however the major environmental concern with farming of sturgeon is the high level of wild-caught fish used in their farm-fed diet.
Considering the sturgeon’s vulnerable situation, the large amounts of illegal fishing, and its unsustainable farming and fishing practices, fish4tomorrow suggests you avoid it.