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Caspian Sea beluga at risk of extinction
February 26, 2010

ATYRAU, Kazakhstan, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Conservation strategies for beluga sturgeon should focus on reducing the overfishing of adults, a team of U.S. and Kazakh scientists said.

Harvest rates today in the Caspian Sea are four to five times too high to sustain a healthy population of the caviar-producing sturgeon, scientists from Kazakhstan and New York's Stony Brook University said in a recent issue of the journal Conservation Biology.

The scientists studied sturgeon in the Ural River, the only remaining Caspian Sea river where beluga sturgeon reproduce unhindered by dams, said Phaedra Doukakis, the study's lead author.

Beluga sturgeon are extinct in the Adriatic Sea and on the brink of extinction in the Azov Sea. The fish can live to be more than 100 years old and do not reach maturity until 9 to 20 years of age.

Capturing sturgeon no younger than 31 years of age would increase population productivity tenfold because it would allow a longer period of breeding and survival for adult females, the scientists said.

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