Protection of common sturgeon: advice for fishermen
Advice and guidance on the catch, landing and sale of common sturgeon.
The Common or European Sturgeon (Acipenser sturio) is the only native UK species of sturgeon, and is currently listed as critically endangered. They are rarely seen in British waters, however a re-introduction programme in France has increased the potential for sightings and bycatch, with a number of catches recently reported in the English Channel.
Common sturgeon is protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, the Offshore Marine Conservation Regulations 2007 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. They are also classed as a ‘Royal Fish’ and any sturgeon caught are the right of the Crown.
Under current legislation it is an offence to retain, land, transport, sell or exchange these fish.
What to do if you catch a common sturgeon
It is important that any live fish are immediately returned to the sea unharmed. Due to the critical state of common sturgeon population numbers, the survival of each fish is essential.
If a live fish is caught it should be released and the following organisations should be contacted:
- Marine Management Organisation (MMO) local office
- Receiver of the Wreck (acting on behalf of the crown in relation to Royal fish)
Any tagged fish are part of the current French re-introduction programme. If a tagged fish is caught please record the following information, where possible, before releasing the fish:
- date of catch
- location of catch (GPS or ICES rectangle)
- size and weight of the fish
- tag number
If a dead fish is caught please contact the MMO before making any attempt to land it, as this is an offence.
The scientific community can gain valuable information from these fish, and so an authorised landing maybe granted to a scientific institution such as the Natural History Museum or Cefas.