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Last updated on April 25, 2014 at 5:25 EDT

Beluga Sturgeon

The beluga (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 large, maximum 19 feet (6 meters), slow-growing and late-maturing fish that can live for 150 years. The species’ numbers have been greatly reduced by over-fishing or poaching, prompting many governments to enact restrictions on its trade.

IUCN classifies the beluga as Endangered. It is a protected species and any intentional killing of these fish is prohibited.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has banned imports of beluga caviar and other beluga products from the Caspian Sea since October 7, 2005.

The Beluga is a large predator which feeds on other fish. Beluga sturgeons are fish, entirely unrelated to mammalian beluga whales. The word derives from the Russian word for white.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that Belugas may reach a length of up to 28.22 ft (8.6 m) and weigh as much as 5,952.5 lbs (2,700 kg), making them the largest freshwater fish in the world. However, some scientists still consider the Mekong giant catfish to be the largest freshwater fish, owing to sturgeons’ ability to survive in seawater.

The beluga travels up freshwater rivers to breed, as do all sturgeons. In this manner sturgeons are sometimes likened to sea fish, though most scientists still consider them river fish.

Beluga caviar is considered a delicacy worldwide. The meat of the beluga, on the other hand, is not particularly renowned.

Humans adversely affect Beluga populations by harvesting beluga caviar. When in the open, the beluga’s enemies include killer whales, sharks and perhaps sperm whale.

The Beluga sturgeon is bulky for a sturgeon. Though the largest Belugas are larger than the biggest Mekong catfish, but an average beluga is smaller than an average Mekong catfish. While the beluga rules the rivers that it lives, being larger than most species of crocodile, when young, it is potential prey for brown bears, crocodiles and adult sturgeons. In egg stage, it has even more enemies, as it is possible that, like tadpoles and sharks, the baby belugas may eat beluga eggs. Despite its huge size, there has been no case of a beluga attacking or killing a human. Even babies have not been attacked by belugas. Even human property (handbags, clothes, boats etc) have not been attacked by belugas, regardless of the beluga’s size. In fact, the smaller pirarucu has been known to eat children, though this is rare. However, it is also true belugas don’t eat prey large in comparison to their body size; humans may be too large, and their babies are usually under their protection. The same applies for other sturgeons.

Beluga Sturgeon