Acipenser persicus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Acipenseriformes Acipenseridae

Scientific Name: Acipenser persicus Borodin, 1897
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Persian Sturgeon
Taxonomic Notes: In the past, Persian Sturgeon was considered a subspecies of A. gueldenstaedtii (A. g. persicus). Since 1973 (Lukyanenko and Korotaeva), based on immunological, biological and reproduction studies and also the morphological differences, it is currently accepted as a species. Based on mitochondrial DNA analysis no molecular marker has been found to differentiate between these two species. Research is still ongoing. In Iran catch for the two species exists for the past 40 years where managers and fishermen use 7-8 morphometric differences to separate these two species (M. Pourkazemi pers. comm.). A large scale study (joint between Iran and Russia) on the genetic and morphometric differences between these two species is needed. This was identified as a priority in the World Bank sponsored Regional Workshop on Sturgeon Genetics, June 2009.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A2cde ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2009-10-24
Assessor(s): Gesner, J., Freyhof, J. & Kottelat, M.
Reviewer(s): Pourkazemi, M. & Smith, K.
It is difficult to distinguish a decline of the wild populations due to the long term stocking of the species. However, it is suspected that the native wild population has declined by over 80% in the past three generations (estimated at 42 years) as all the wild populations have almost disappeared, apart from the restocked individuals from Iran. There are only occasional records from the northern Caspian basin (in 2008, 100 immature individuals were caught in the northern Caspian basin (Mugue pers. comm.)). Overfishing at sea for caviar will soon cause extinction of natural populations.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is known from the Caspian basin, being most abundant in southern part. In its past distribution, the Persian Sturgeon ascended all rivers around the Caspian Sea. It currently now only ascends lower courses of Iranian rivers, the Volga and Ural, and may enter the Terek and Kura. It is not currently stocked in Russia. More than 80% of total sturgeon stocking in Iran is for this species (Pourkazemi pers. comm.). In 1998, 24.5 million fingerlings were released (Abdolhay and Baradaran Tahouri 2006), but in 2008 only 10 million fingerlings were released.
Countries occurrence:
Azerbaijan; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Kazakhstan; Russian Federation; Turkmenistan
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The only legal commercial exploitation of this species is in Iran (mainly from hatchery stock). Restocking in Iran started in 1969. It is estimated that 80% of catch originates from stocked individuals (Pourkazemi pers. comm.).

Iranian catch data shows that there has been between 54-56% decline from 1960/65 to 2006; the catch has continued to decline since 2006 but data is not yet available for this time period. The decline in catch does reflect a decline in abundance even though there are fisheries regulations and a reduction in catch effort (Pourkazemi pers. comm.).

In Russia, commercial catch in the Caspian Sea has been banned since 2000. The 2007 Quota for scientific catch was 8 tonnes; it is unknown if this was met.  

The following Iranian catch data (Pourkazemi 2006) shows the total sturgeon catch from Iran (it is estimated that approximately 40% of the catch from 1960 to 1989 and 50% of the catch between 1990 and 2007 was of A. persicus, Pourkazemi pers. comm.):

1960 - 2,000 tonnes (A. persicus = 440 tonnes)
1965 - 2,100 tonnes (A. persicus = 462 tonnes)
1970 - 3,000 tonnes (A. persicus = 750 tonnes)
1975 - 1,675 tonnes (A. persicus = 302 tonnes)
1980 - 1,429 tonnes (A. persicus = 372 tonnes)
1985 - 1,650 tonnes (A. persicus = 297 tonnes)
1990 - 2,645 tonnes (A. persicus = 582 tonnes)
1995 - 1,500 tonnes (A. persicus = 480 tonnes)
1997 - 1,300 tonnes (A. persicus = 559 tonnes)
1998 - 1,200 tonnes (A. persicus = 588 tonnes)
1999 - 1,000 tonnes (A. persicus = 480 tonnes)
2000 - 1,000 tonnes (A. persicus = 540 tonnes)
2001 - 870 tonnes (A. persicus = 557 tonnes)
2002 - 643 tonnes (A. persicus = 418 tonnes)
2003 - 463 tonnes (A. persicus = 315 tonnes)
2004 - 500 tonnes (A. persicus = 345 tonnes)
2006 - 330 tonnes (A. persicus = 201 tonnes)
2007 - 225 tonnes (A. persicus = 137 tonnes)
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Habitat: At sea, coastal and estuarine zones. Spawns in strong-current habitats in the main course of large and deep rivers on stone or gravel bottom. Juveniles are found in riverine habitats during their first summer.

Biology: Anadromous (spending at least part of its life in salt water and returning to rivers to breed). Males reproduce for the first time at 8-15 years, females at 12-18. Age range for mature females is 6-40 years; 85% are between 14-18 years, and 80% of males are between 12-16yrs (Moghim 2003). Average generation length is 14 years. This species does not spawn every year. Spawning takes place in June-August when temperature rises above 16°C. In the southern Caspian basin, the Persian Sturgeon spawns in April-September but reproduction is interrupted from June to August when temperature rises above 25°C. Most individuals migrate upriver in April-May, but some may enter rivers at other times of the year. In the southern Caspian basin, there is a second run in September-October. Juveniles migrate to the sea during their first summer and remain there until maturity. At sea, the Persian Sturgeon feeds on a wide variety of benthic molluscs, crustaceans and small fish.

This species has different ecological biological requirements to A. gueldenstaedtii, as it prefers warmer water for spawning and has a shorter migration run.
Systems:Freshwater; Marine
Generation Length (years):12-18
Movement patterns:Full Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Skin is used as leather, Caviar is used as cosmetic and medicinal purposes. The intestine is used as sauce (food) and to produce gelatine, and the swim bladder used as glue. Approximately 25% comes from the wild, and 75% stocked.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Illegal fishing/poaching across the Caspian region is the principle threat. In the Caspian Sea, the illegal sturgeon catch for all species was evaluated to be 6 to 10 times the legal catch (CITES 2000). Bycatch is also a threat to the species in both rivers and the Caspian Sea. In 1996, fish inspection authorities filed 8,000 citations for violations committed by individuals, mainly in the Astrakhan region along the Volga (Vecsei and Artyukhin 2001).

In Iran, pollution from agriculture and domestic waste causes loss and degradation of spawning sites. In Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, oil and industrial pollution has led to the loss of suitable feeding grounds. In Russia, oil pollution is a potential threat. Dams across the region have also led to the blocking of access to spawning grounds.

The Allee affect is also a potential threat to the species.

The lack of ability to genetically identify the species in international trade is a potential threat, as Russian and Persian Sturgeon (caviar) can be mixed.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Restocking (since 1969) of the species occurs in Iran. Live gene bank and cryopreservation, DNA and tissue preservation exists in Iran and Russia (cryopreservation and tissue samples only).

There is strict national and international regulation of fishing and trading of caviar and meat, but there is still illegal trade. This species was listed on CITES Appendix II in 1998.

A large scale study (joint between Iran and Russia) on the genetic and morpometric differences between these two species is needed. This was identified as a priority in the World Bank sponsored Regional Workshop on Sturgeon Genetics, June 2009. A national action plan is being developed for conservation and sustainable use of this species in Iran. Public awareness raising is an ongoing project in Iran.

Citation: Gesner, J., Freyhof, J. & Kottelat, M. 2010. Acipenser persicus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T235A13043839. . Downloaded on 20 September 2018.
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