The Caspian countries have depleted the biological resources of the Caspian Sea, and experts are looking for new ways to provide Azerbaijan with fish stocks.
Over the past decades, biological resources of the Caspian Sea have been greatly depleted. According to Mehman Akhundov, Director of Fisheries Research Institute of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan, compared with the 80s of the last century, sturgeon stocks in the Caspian decreased by 30 times. ‘And only over the past 15-20 years, the biological resources of the Caspian Sea have declined tenfold,’ said the scientist.
Akhundov noted that after 2000, the most severe depletion of the Caspian Sea ecosystem was being observed, which was associated both with the anthropogenic factor – human impact, and with natural phenomena. If we talk about human impact, we must first keep in mind that after the dissolution of the USSR and formation of independent states, the general management of biological resources has been no longer carried out.
‘Now every Caspian country is trying to regulate, or is not at all capable of regulating this process, which leads to chaos in this issue and a rise in poaching,’ said the expert. Poaching is generally the main scourge, which leads to the depletion of biological resources of the sea and inland waters. But the situation is being compounded by another factor.
‘The Caspian Sea ecosystem is known to have changed after introducing an invasive ctenophore (Mnemiopsis leidyi) into it. The ctenophore reduced zooplankton, a prey for fish. As a result, the stock of anchovy sprat decreased by 10 times. Accordingly, the populations of sprat-eating fish (sturgeon, salmon, and herring) declined too. The Caspian seal population also declined in the same proportion,’ explained Akhundov.
In addition, in recent years, natural changes, such as an increase in average climatic temperature, a decrease in water level due to a decrease in runoff, have negatively affected. Naturally, fish must enter the river in order to spawn, but it can no longer get into the Kura, covered with silt.
‘We are cleaning the Kura now, but it is useless. Fish also does not enter other rivers. It extremely rare enters the Volga and Ural too. This process is progressing, and it is characteristic of the entire Caspian region,’ says Akhundov.
The expert considers the only way out of this situation in the rejection of fishing and transition to fish farming.
‘Azerbaijan has always been famous for its aquaculture. Back in the 70s and 80s, 40 to 60 thousand tons of fish were grown in the country. They were mainly cyprinids: common carp, common whitefish, and silver carp. Now these species are grown in ponds. But they are not quite high-quality in terms of taste,’ the expert considers.
Currently, a state program is being developed, which in the future will increase the volume of fish production up to 100 thousand individuals per year,’ hopes Akhundov.