Acipenser gueldenstaedtii Brandt & Ratzeburg, 1833
Inland water: 2900-525 (1 spc), 1974 , Bueyuekcekmece Lagoon , N. Meriç .
- Nurettin Meriç, Lütfiye Eryilmaz, Müfit Özulug (2007): A catalogue of the fishes held in the Istanbul University, Science Faculty, Hydrobiology Museum. Zootaxa 1472, 29-54: 33-33, URL:http://www.zoobank.org/urn:lsid:zoobank.org:pub:428F3980-C1B8-45FF-812E-0F4847AF6786
It is currently only known from the Caspian Sea, where it spawns in the rivers Ural and Volga, and the Black Sea where spawning occurs in the lower Danube and Rioni rivers (last recorded in the Rioni in 1999 (Kolman & Zarkua 2002)). There is no native spawning population remaining in the Sea of Azov, only introduced (stocked) individuals. The species reproduction within the Kura is debated (Vecsei 2001).
Habitat and Ecology
Biology: Anadromous and freshwater populations (freshwater populations existed in the Danube and Volga - both are now extinct). A complicated pattern of spawning migrations includes spring and autumn runs. Individuals migrating in spring enter freshwater just before spawning; they tend to spawn in lower reaches of rivers (320-650 km in the unregulated Ural). Individuals migrating in autumn overwinter in rivers and spawn the following spring further upstream (900-1200 km in the Ural).
Males reproduce for the first time at 8-13 years, females at 10-16. Generation length (average age of parents of current cohort) is estimated to be 15 years under natural circumstances, but due to the impacts this species is facing the generation length ranges from between 12 years in the Caspian Sea to over 20 in the Danube. Females reproduce every 4-6 years and males every 2-3 years in April-June, when the temperature rises above 10°C. Larvae drift on currents; juveniles then move towards shallower habitats, before migrating to the sea during their first summer. They remain at sea until maturity. The Russian Sturgeon feeds on a wide variety of benthic molluscs, crustaceans and small fish.
Life History and Behavior
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Acipenser gueldenstaedtii
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Acipenser gueldenstaedtii
Public Records: 27
Specimens with Barcodes: 110
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
The last natural population still migrates up the Danube and the Rioni (last recorded in Rioni in 1999), where the sturgeons are heavily overfished and poached. The Caspian populations are also under massive pressure from overfishing and loss of spawning habitats. Almost all migrating spawners are poached below the Volgograd dam. The Ural river still has spawning individuals.
It is estimated that the species' wild native population has undergone a massive population decline of over 90% in the past three generations (estimated at 45 years). This is based on the 88.5% decline in global catches of the species in just 15 years despite large levels of stocking (average global catch from 1992-1999 was 1,531.75 tonnes; from 2000-2007 it was 175.37 tonnes), the 92.5% decline in estimated spawning stock biomass in the Volga from 1961-65 to 1998-2000, the 88% decline in the average number of spawners entering the lower Volga from the 1962-75 average to the 1992-2002 average, and the decline in the Juvenile Production Index from Romanian Danube.
This decline is predicted to continue as illegal fishing at sea, and in rivers, for caviar will soon result in the extinction of the remaining natural wild population. In the immediate future, survival can only depend on stocking.
Despite this level of stocking, fisheries catches have fallen, particularly from the early 1990s in the Caspian. According to FAO fisheries statistics (FAO 2009) global catches fell from 4,250 tonnes in 1992 (first available catch data) to 67 tonnes in 2007 (last available catch data), a decline of 98% in 15 years. The average catch from 1992-1999 (8 year period) was 1,531.75 tonnes, whereas the average catch from 2000-2007 (8 year period) was 175.37 tonnes, a decline of 88.5%.
Data from the Caspian Sea (Khodorevskaya et al. 2009) shows similar declines: catches were between 6,000 and 9,000 tonnes per year in the 1960s to a peak of around 14,500 tonnes in the late 1970s early 1980s to less than 1,000 per year from 2000 to 2008. The estimated spawning stock biomass in the Volga has also drastically declined, from 13,200 tonnes (1961-65) and 22,200 tonnes (1966-70) to 1,000 tonnes (1996-97) and 1,000 tonnes (1998-2002). Average number of spawners (1,000 individuals) passing fishery zones to the spawning grounds in the lower Volga (per year) has declined by 88% from the 1962-75 average to the 1992-2002 average.
Romanian catch data (Danube) shows that in 2002, 3,726 kg was caught; in 2003, 1,499 kg; in 2004, 440 kg; and in 2005, 37 kg, showing a 99% decline in just four years (Paraschiv et al. 2006). A Juvenile Production Index (evidence of breeding) for the Danube (Romania) also shows a decline: CPUE was just over 0.7 in 2000, < 0.2 in 2001, 0.3 in 2002, 0 in 2003, < 0.1 in 2004, 0.1 in 2005, 0 in 2006, < 0.05 in 2007 and 0 in 2008. (CPUE = number of Young of the Year - number of < 1 year olds caught - from natural recruitment captured in one netting (Suciu 2008, pers. comm.; Paraschiv et al. 2006; Knight et al. 2010).
Poaching and illegal fishing, which appears to be increasing, is also a threat to the species. Enforcement of legislation regulating the fishery for the species appear to be lacking. In the Caspian Sea and Sea of Azov the illegal sturgeon catch for all species was evaluated to be 6 to 10 times the legal catch (CITES 2000). Bycatch is also a threat to the species (in both marine and freshwater).
High levels of pollution (from oil and industrial waste), in both the Black and Caspian Sea basins have altered hormonal balance, and increased the number of hermaphroditic fish. Pollution levels are now decreasing since the break up of the Soviet Union (Levin, 1977 in CITES 2000). In 1990, 55,000 sturgeon were found dead on the shore of the Sea of Azov as the result of pollution.
Genetic pollution is also a potential threat as stocks are moved to different locations (e.g. Caspian stocks moved to Sea of Azov).
The Allee affect is also a potential threat to the species.
The species is not fully protected in any range state, though licenses are required in most countries and Iran has banned private sturgeon fisheries. Overall, however, enforcement measures seem to be lacking. Fish lifts and artificial spawning grounds have been introduced to parts of the Caspian region (CITES 2000) without much success. This species was listed on CITES Appendix II in 1998.
Gene bank of live specimens and cryopreservation is ongoing in Russia and Iran.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
The Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii), also known as the diamond sturgeon or Danube sturgeon, is a species of fish in the Acipenseridae family. It is found in Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine. It is also found in the Caspian Sea.  This fish can grow up to about 235 cm (93 in) and weigh 115 kg (254 lb). Russian sturgeon mature and reproduce slowly, making them highly vulnerable to fishing. It is distinguished from other Acipenser species by its short snout with a rounded tip as well as its lower lip which is interrupted at its center.
The Russian sturgeon can grow to 210 cm (83 in) but a more normal size is 110 to 140 cm (43 to 55 in). It has a relatively short and rounded snout with three pairs of unfringed barbels closer to the tip of the snout that to the mouth. The dorsal fin has 27 to 48 soft rays and the anal fin has 16 to 35. The number of scales along the lateral line varies from 21 to 50. This fish can be distinguish from the otherwise similar starry sturgeon by the shape of its snout, its barbels and scale arrangement. The upper surface is greyish-green, the lateral scales are pale and the belly white.
Distribution and habitat
The Russian sturgeon is native to the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Caspian Sea. It is an anadromous fish and moves into the river systems that drain into these seas in order to make its way to spawning areas upstream. It is usually found near the bottom in fairly shallow water over sandy or muddy substrates.
The Russian sturgeon feeds on crustaceans, molluscs and small fishes such as gobies, anchovies and sprats. It is solitary when in the sea but becomes gregarious as it moves up-river in April, May and June to spawn.
- Muhammad Aurang Zeb Mughal (2013) "Caspian Sea." Robert Warren Howarth (ed.), Biomes & Ecosystems, vol. 2. Ipswich, MA: Salem Press, pp. 431-433.
- "Russian sturgeon: Acipenser gueldenstaedti (Brandt)". NatureGate. Retrieved 2013-12-25.
- "Danube sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedti)". Fishes of the NE Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Marine Species Identification Portal. Retrieved 2013-12-25.
- Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2011). "Acipenser gueldenstaedtii" in FishBase. June 2011 version.
- Sturgeon Specialist Group 1996. Acipenser gueldenstaedtii. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 3 August 2007.
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