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© Lubomir Hlasek

Sterlets belong to the amazing sturgeon species, also known as “living fossils”, since they date back to the Triassic period. Although they survived while dinosaurs didn’t, in the 21st century sterlets are facing an alarming decline due to overfishing, destruction of their natural habitats and water pollution.


Sterlets are considered a delicacy, especially when they are small (under 40cm) and some fishermen like to call them “Danube’s fish sticks”. Unfortunately, this has caused them to be intensively overfished before they become sexually mature, which makes it very difficult for wild populations to recover and remain stable.

The Lower Danube is the only region in the EU still holding viable, naturally reproducing sturgeon populations and Serbia is one of the last habitats of wild sterlets. Unfortunately, the law which prohibits catching sterlets under 40cm has often been violated, which has caused a drastic reduction in the sterlet population in Serbia. It was clear that the existing protection regime was not enough to preserve endangered wild sterlets.    


Catches of sterlet in Serbia in 2017 increased by almost 50%, due to the market demand for sterlet meat, according to the Serbian Ministry for environmental protection.

We recognized this as an alarm signal and in 2018 joined forces with scientists, activists and fishers in a campaign: “Sterlet should be in the river, not on your plate”. We demonstrated that sterlet was intensively fished during the seasonal spawning ban, was caught under the legally allowed size of 40cm and sold illegally in restaurants and markets across Serbia.

We used the impact of social and traditional media, and gained massive public support. This resulted in the Ministry of Environmental Protection of the Republic of Serbia adopting a permanent fishing ban on sterlet, starting 1 January 2019.

The campaign “Sterlet should be in the river, not on your plate” was selected as one of the three winners for “Best non-profit campaign 2018”.


Be sure to choose a sterlet from aquaculture if you ever wish to eat it. Demand for meat is still very high and some restaurants tend to bypass the ban in order to please the customers. Don’t be one of them! Share this information, follow what we do and support us!

Did you know?

It takes about a decade for sterlets to reach adult size and unlike other sturgeons, they live entirely in freshwater.

© naturepl.com / Konstantin Mikhailov / WWF

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