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Beluga Sturgeon

Huso huso

ON EXHIBIT:  Rivers of the World at River Journey

Beluga Sturgeon


The beluga is not only the largest sturgeon, it is also the largest freshwater fish in Europe. While they are generally less than 16 feet long, some can reach up to 26 feet and 7000 lb, which is larger than a full-size pickup truck! Beluga sturgeon are slow-growing and late-maturing fish that can live over 110 years. They are large predators which feed primarily on other fish, but have also been reported to eat seals and birds. Like salmon, belugas travel upstream in rivers to spawn. Beluga sturgeon are fish, and are unrelated to the (mammalian) beluga whale.

Classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The beluga sturgeon is the source of the delicacy beluga caviar, which is the eggs or roe of the sturgeon. One female sturgeon may be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for her caviar. Unfortunately, the fish are killed in order to harvest the caviar. Many factors combine to make belugas easy targets for overharvesting. Belugas are long-lived species that don’t mature until they are at least 10-14 years old, harvesting occurs instead of reproduction, and the trade in beluga caviar is worth $100 million annually. Overharvesting has caused nearly a ninety-percent decline in beluga sturgeon populations. The United States banned import of beluga caviar in 2006 after listing beluga sturgeon under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, but illegal poaching still puts pressure on wild populations. Time is running out in the fight to save this ancient fish.

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About This Animal

SIZE: Up to 26 feet (8 m)

RANGE: Black, Caspian & Adriatic seas 

HABITAT: Freshwater; brackish; marine; depth range to 590 feet (180 m) 

DIET:  Feeds mostly on sea fishes (Black Sea whiting, anchovies, flatfishes, gobies) also crustaceans and mollusks