Beluga sturgeon (Huso huso)

Beluga Sturgeon (Huso huso) by Daniel Dohne http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hausen_(Huso_huso_L.).JPG. GNU Free Documentation License 24/02/2008
Beluga Sturgeon (Huso huso) photo by Daniel Dohne

The Beluga or European sturgeon (Huso huso) is a species of anadromous fish in the sturgeon family (Acipenseridae) of order Acipenseriformes. It is found primarily in the Caspian and Black Sea basins, and occasionally in the Adriatic Sea. Heavily fished for the female's valuable roe, known as Beluga caviar, the Beluga is a huge, some documented specimens attain nearly 6 meters (19 feet), slow-growing and late-maturing fish that can live for 118 years. The species' numbers have been greatly reduced by overfishing and poaching, prompting many governments to enact restrictions on its trade.

Behaviour

The Beluga is a large predator which feeds on other fish. Beluga sturgeons are fish, and are unrelated to the (mammalian) Beluga whale.

As do many sturgeons, the Beluga travels upstream in rivers to spawn. Accordingly, sturgeons are sometimes likened to sea fish; however most scientists consider them to be river fish.


Beluga, hybrid, stellate, diamond, siberian and atlantic sturgeons feeding

Size

Unconfirmed reports suggest that Belugas may reach a length of up to 8.6 m (28 ft) and weigh as much as 2,700 kilograms (5,940 lbs), making them the largest freshwater fish in the world, larger even than the Mekong giant catfish or the pirarucu. At this mass, the Beluga would be even heavier than the ocean sunfish, generally recognized as the largest of bony fishes. But the largest generally accepted record is of the female taken in 1827 in the Volga estuary at 1,476 kg (3,249 lbs) and 7.2 m (24 ft). Nevertheless, some scientists still consider the Mekong giant catfish to be the largest freshwater fish, owing to sturgeons' ability to survive in seawater. Beluga of such great sizes are always very old (continuing to grow throughout life) and have become increasingly rare in recent decades due to the heavy fishing of this species. Today, Belugas that are caught are generally 142-328 cm (4.7-10.9 feet) long and weigh 19-264 kg (42-582 lbs). The female Beluga is typically 20% larger than the male.

Caviar

Beluga caviar is considered a delicacy worldwide. The meat of the Beluga, on the other hand, is not particularly renowned. Beluga caviar has long been scarce and expensive, but the endangered status of the fish has made its caviar more expensive than before.

Status

IUCN classifies the Beluga as Endangered. It is a protected species listed in appendix III of the Bern Convention and its trade is restricted under CITES appendix II. The Mediterranean population is strongly protected under appendix II of the Bern Convention, prohibiting any intentional killing of these fish.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has banned imports of Beluga Caviar and other Beluga products from the Caspian Sea since October 6, 2005.

Links: Encyclopedia of Life | FAO Species Fact Sheet | Fishbase | ITIS | Pond Life | Sturgeon Web | World Register of Marine Species

Common Names: Beluga, Beluga Sturgeon, European Sturgeon, Giant Sturgeon, Great Sturgeon, Russian Sturgeon

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