Genus Acipenser constitutes the largest specimen within the Acipenseriformes order, including approximately eighteen of the twenty-seven recognised sturgeon species. The word “Acipenser” translates from Latin to English as “sturgeon.” They are considered “living fossils”, sharing many morphological and biological features with ancestral fish.
Present-Day sturgeons have changed little since pre-historic times, perhaps due to their perseverance and relatively insufficient stimuli for change. Sturgeons have very few natural predators since they can develop into phenomenal sizes. The crustacean species, upon which the sturgeon’s diet depends, have also varied little. The role of the sturgeon in the aquatic ecosystem has been blessed with resilience, and thus been exempted from alterations over millions of years.
Wild Caviar – Glorious Past of the Caspian Sea
For centuries now, sturgeons have been caught and been of the utmost interest from an economic, gastronomic and cultural perspective. To monarchs’ delight, the “Royal Prerogative” guarantees the possession of any caught sturgeons, whilst their delectable Roe (may only be called Caviar after completion of salting process) was championed as the ultimate, fitting luxury for Kings and Queens in those Halcyon Days. Furthermore, the Sturgeon’s Meat, which is customarily cured and smoked, established its gastronomic presence ever since the 18th century and was popularised as “ZAKUSKA” – an elegant array of Russian Hors d’Oeuvres quickly spanning across Western Europe.
Sturgeon’s Legendary Past and Magnificent Present
Traditionally, only two Nations have been major Caviar-Exporters:
The former Soviet Union (USSR) and Iran. Wild sturgeons underwent a dramatic decline and became rare and scarce as early as the beginning of the 20th Century. They were driven to extinction, not because of accidents or their failure to adapt to natural changes but as a result of Intense human interference, such as construction of water dams, restricting the sea’s fresh water input, thus impeding the sturgeon’s migrations. The little remaining water was contaminated by agricultural biocides and industrial wastes. The Caspian Sea’s Pollution, due to oil exploration, further decimates the Sturgeons’ prehistoric habitats. The few surviving adults subsequently face vigorous Over-Fishing and Poaching without the opportunity of a Life-Line to perpetuate. Re-population has thus been severely curtailed with human activities being the major contributory element to the demise of wild sturgeons.
It is of paramount importance and of the utmost urgency to now call for and to develop, engineer and implement strategies for a conservation culture to aid and abet this species’ recovery in their natural habitats.
In short: The sturgeon’s regeneration is our responsibility.
Published on Apr 10, 2015