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Beluga Sturgeon Considered for Endangered Listing

WASHINGTON, DC, July 31, 2002 (ENS) - American caviar lovers may have to do without their tasty beluga sturgeon roe. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comments on a proposal to list beluga sturgeon as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). Loss of habitat in traditional spawning areas, pollution and overharvesting are the major threats to survival of beluga sturgeon in the wild.

Illegal trade poses the most serious threat to beluga sturgeon conservation. If listed as endangered under the ESA, commercial imports, exports, re-exports and interstate commerce of beluga sturgeon would be prohibited.

Today's action is in response to a petition submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Sea Web. In reviewing the petition, the service found "there was sufficient information to make a finding that the action may be warranted," the agency said today.

Beluga sturgeon is currently listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty under which the more than 150 member nations seek to monitor and regulate global trade through permits in wild animals and plants that may be at risk due to commercial exploitation.

Trade in all Appendix II species must be accompanied by a valid export permit from the country of origin prior to export to ensure the product was legally obtained and its harvest was not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.

Prized for their roe and flesh since ancient times, beluga sturgeon, or Huso huso, are vulnerable to depletion because they are slow to mature and live for many years.

The beluga sturgeon is native to the Caspian and Black Seas, and spawns in the rivers that constitute the watersheds of these seas. It has been eliminated from the Adriatic Sea, and is maintained in the Sea of Azov through artificial propagation. Over 90 percent of the beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea have been found to be hatchery roduced.

During a 90 day public comment period beginning today, the agency hopes to gather the best scientific data and trade information available as part of its consideration of the proposal.

Comments, information, and questions can be submitted by mail to the Chief, Division of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 750, Arlington, Virginia 22203, by fax, 703-358-2276, or by e-mail, Scientificauthority@fws.gov.

For a complete copy of the proposal, visit:

Press Release: Proposal to List Beluga Sturgeon as Endangered

Petition To List the Beluga Sturgeon (Huso huso)
as Endangered Throughout Its Range


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