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Caspian Sea

In 2018, BLUE saw the designation of the first ever MPA in the Caspian Sea, Gizilagaj MPA, near the mouth of the Kura river. The MPA provides a sanctuary for subadult sturgeon and a diversity of Caspian marine creatures. 

In the 1940s, great schools of anadromous fish made their annual migration to spawning grounds in the oxygen rich, fast flowing mountain rivers of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. Giant Caspian salmon, lamprey and six species of endemic sturgeon instinctively followed the fresh snow-melt for hundreds of miles so that they could lay their eggs. 

These were the last marches of the sturgeon with their survival in the balance with the onset of industrialisation in the Caspian basin. Today, these fish are all critically endangered in the wild and will become extinct if conservation measures do not succeed. Hydroelectric dams block migration, systematic poaching reduces stocks further, climate change alters river flow and pollution has disrupted the food chain. 

BLUE is working with local NGO, IDEA, to tackle these problems by building a partnership between government, charities and local communities. BLUE is using innovative environmental DNA sampling to identify areas still frequented by endangered marine species. A countrywide ban of gillnets has reduced poaching and accidental bycatch of migratory fish. As protection increases and habitats are restored, the balance may be tipping in favour of these prehistoric, nomadic fish. 

Caspian Sea

Key stats

1st MPA designated in the Caspian

1st Mission Blue Hope Spot in the Caspian

1000s of deadly gillnets removed from rivers

25-year ban on fishing for sturgeon

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