The Serbian Fish Stock under heavy pressure from illegal fishing | WWF

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The Serbian Fish Stock under heavy pressure from illegal fishing

WWF and the United Anglers of Serbia are warning the public again this year that, due to increased fish consumption during holidays, the existing problems of fish theft and overfishing of many species, even strictly protected ones, are still unresolved in Serbia.

Data obtained by WWF in cooperation with professional institutions and associations show that around 5 thousand tons of fish are legally caught in Serbia per year, while the amount of illegally caught fish is much higher – estimates go up to 10 thousand tons. Illegal fishing is destroying fish stocks, the environment and human health.

Illegal fishing, and then illegal sale of fish on the street, were made possible due to poor controls and small, practically nonexistent penalties. Illegal fishing is therefore a source of easy profit without much risk. Poachers do not hesitate to market illegal catches at fish markets, setting an example for restaurants to include protected species in their offer. The fish that is most endangered is Sterlet, for which we can say without exaggeration that is facing extinction”, said Vladimir Stakic of United Anglers of Serbia.

Poachers are targeting primarily high-quality fish – perch, catfish and carp, and especially sterlet. The taste and meat quality of sterlet triggered a chain of events that led to its mass overfishing. The implementation of the sterlet fishing ban, which was introduced by the Ministry of Environmental Protection at the beginning of the year at the initiative of WWF, showed to be inefficient so far, which caused this wild-caught fish to still be in regular supply at many restaurants and markets.

“One year after the ban was introduced, citizens are still sending us photos of served sterlets at restaurants through social media. For us, this is a good sign because this shows that they are aware of the ban, but we are not the right place to address all these concerns – that is the duty of the inspections. The problem is that some restaurants most notably those based near river, openly promote on social media how they managed to catch and serve sterlet from the wild. The law clearly states that this is forbidden, and there is no difference in taste between a Danube-caught and farmed sterlet. The legal alternative to assisting the recovery of the fish stock is to consume fish from aquaculture. This way, the inspection, as well as the activists for nature conservation, would receive greater support in their work”, adds Deni Porej, CEO of WWF Adria.

WWF Adria and United Anglers of Serbia urge the authorities not to treat nature crimes favorably, but to treat fish theft as any other theft that leaves economic loss to the country, and above all, collective harm to citizens for damaging the environment. We also urge the prosecution and the judiciary to demand and impose adequate sentences. Illegal fishing should not be treated as a social category, because it is done by organized crime groups and individuals who make a large illegal profit. Adequate enforcement of existing laws, strengthening of inspections and public support can contribute to solving this problem in the open waters of Serbia and to preserving the rivers and the fish stock.
The Serbian fish stock is under heavy pressure

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