Helping hand for world's most threatened species group

Posted on 12 August 2022

Two new protected areas are a big boost to efforts to prevent sturgeons from slipping towards extinction.

Sturgeons and paddlefish – part of the same family of species – have been around since the dinosaurs roamed the planet. But all of the remaining 26 species are threatened with extinction due to threats such as hydropower dams blocking their migration routes, poaching for the illegal trade in wild caviar, and habitat loss.

WWF is working with our many partners across the world to save these extraordinary fish. So we are delighted that two new protected areas for sturgeons have been created in key stretches of the Danube river in Bulgaria and the Rioni river in Georgia.

The Bulgarian government’s decision to create the 288-hectare Esetrite - Vetren protected area, the first in the country aiming to safeguard sturgeons, comes after long-running efforts by WWF alongside fisherfolk and others who have an interest in the future of the river and its wildlife. Thankfully, harmful activities for sturgeons and other wildlife, such as dredging for building materials and spewing untreated waste into the river, are no longer allowed – great news for the future of sturgeons, with the Danube one of the last rivers in Europe where they still breed naturally.

Meanwhile, the Rioni is the only river in the eastern part of the Black Sea where these ancient species can still migrate to spawn. So the Georgian government’s decision to protect key sturgeon habitats in a 7km-long stretch of river upstream from the estuary is important for their future in the region.


Sadly, the most recent assessment of paddlefish and sturgeon species confirmed the extinction of the Chinese paddlefish, the extinction in the wild of the Yangtze sturgeon and the extinction in the EU of the ship sturgeon, with two-thirds of remaining species critically endangered.

We therefore remain strongly committed to our global sturgeon recovery programme, which also brings big benefits to other freshwater wildlife and the many communities who depend on healthy river environments.