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Under Threat – The Beluga Sturgeon

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Updated: March 8, 2021
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The Beluga Sturgeon is a large and long-living species of freshwater fish that is native to the temperate waters of the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. Although the Beluga Sturgeon shares it’s name with the more famous Beluga Whale, the two species are unrelated with the name Beluga coming from the Russian word for white.

A large Beluga Sturgeon swimming near underwater, algae-covered tree branches
The Beluga Sturgeon lives in the temperate waters of the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea.

Mick Rush/

The Beluga Sturgeon is the largest species of freshwater fish in the world with some individuals growing more than 7 meters long and weighing nearly 1.5 tons. They are also able to live for more than 100 years but this means that they are slow-maturing and often won’t reach sexual maturity until they are in their twenties.

The underside of a Beluga Sturgeon swimming underwater.
The Beluga Sturgeon can grow to be more than 7 meters long and weigh nearly 1.5 tons.

Olga Alper/

Today however, it is very rare to find such large individuals as the average size of Beluga Sturgeons caught now tends to be between 1.5 and 4 meters. Females are larger than their male counterparts and it is these girls that have been the centre of culinary attention for some time… Beluga Sturgeon caviar is a global delicacy.

Selling for an average of 7,000 USD per kilo, Beluga Sturgeon caviar is highly sought after but sadly their meat is not, meaning that these freshwater giants are simply killed for their eggs. It is the exploitation of the Beluga Sturgeon for caviar that has led to a decline of more than 90% in it’s population numbers since 1950.

A close-up of Beluga Sturgeon caviar displayed on a black dish.
Beluga Sturgeon caviar is considered a delicacy, causing the overexploitation of these fish mainly for their eggs.

Subbotina Anna/

Nowadays, the Beluga Sturgeon is listed by the IUCN as an animal that is Critically Endangered in the wild. Although the importation of Beluga caviar is banned is some places, unrealistically high annual harvest quotes continue to threaten the species in it’s natural environment. Some estimates suggest that the species could be extinct in the wild in the next 20 years.

The head of a Beluga Sturgeon swimming near other fish.
The Beluga Sturgeon is now classified as Critically Endangered in the wild.


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About the Author

AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.
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