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The Rioni river is the last functioning sturgeon spawning river in Georgia and eastern part of the Black Sea basin.

© WWF Caucasus
Strengthening Sturgeon Conservation in Georgia

Sturgeons are among the oldest species in existence and were present during the age of dinosaurs. Today, these species are on the brink of extinction mainly due to overfishing, poaching, habitat loss and degradation, and pollution. Sturgeons are considered one of the most endangered species on Earth and they are a priority species for WWF's global conservation programmes. 
 
Today, the survival of wild sturgeon populations depends on the protection of the last functional sturgeon spawning rivers. Georgia’s Rioni River still holds large populations of sturgeon and it is the last functioning sturgeon spawning river in the eastern part of the Black Sea basin. The Rioni River ecosystem is an area of high importance for the national and global survival of sturgeons and this means that Georgia has a global responsibility for sturgeon conservation.
 
The following six sturgeon species have historically been widespread in Georgia and are all listed as critically endangered by the IUCN: Beluga (Huso huso), Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii), Stellate sturgeon (Acipenser stellatus), Ship sturgeon (Acipenser nudiventris), European/Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser sturio), Colchic sturgeon (Acipenser persicus colchicus).
 

The Rioni River for Saving The Sturgeon

Sturgeons are disappearing. After 150 million years on Earth, every species is now threatened with extinction - according to today’s IUCN Red List update.
One species is officially extinct.
One more is extinct in the wild.
Two-thirds of the remaining 26 species are critically endangered - on the very brink of extinction, including six sturgeon species native to Georgia: Beluga (Huso huso), Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii), Stellate sturgeon (Acipenser stellatus), Ship sturgeon (Acipenser nudiventris), European/Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser sturio), Colchic sturgeon (Acipenser persicus colchicus).
But there is still hope - if countries live up to their commitments and prioritize freshwater biodiversity in the new global framework for nature.
IUCN, WSCS and WWF are working with partners to save these species through scientific research, awareness raising and directly engaging in conservation projects to bridge the gap between science and management.
 

 

Working with local schools

 

WWF-Caucasus works to raise awareness about sturgeon conservation among local communities and educational programs for schoolchildren were conducted at local schools in 9 villages in Georgia’s Poti, Khobi and Samtredia municipalities. Children from grades 9-11 received information about the importance of saving the various species of sturgeon in Georgia and in the Rioni River specifically.

Launching of the second phase of the project “Strengthening Sturgeon Conservation in Georgia”

WWF in Georgia, with the financial support of WWF Switzerland and in close cooperation with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, launched the second phase of the project “Strengthening Sturgeon Conservation in Georgia”. The project covers several components and some of the deliverables it supports are:

  • Establishment of a multi-stakeholder platform to promote, communicate, advocate and coordinate sturgeon conservation issues among key stakeholders – governmental, scientific, non-governmental and private sectors. 
  •  Protection of the critical habitats for sturgeon conservation through the legal recognition of the sites.
  •  Develop and initiate the implementation of the sturgeon monitoring programme.

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