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WSCS-WWF training on population monitoring methods in Georgia

The development of a standardized monitoring of the populations of sturgeon species in Georgia is carried out in a close cooperation between WSCS experts and WWF Caucasus since 2021. In August 2022 the practical training on the implementation of different methods took place in the coastal waters of the Black Sea and in the Rioni River downstream of the Varzikhe dam. The participants from academia, the regional National Park and the Ministry of Environment underwent an online training course before applying the lessons learned in the field. The three-day hands on course focused on the sampling by trawl in coastal waters, beach seine fishery, gill net and drift net fishery and application of D-nets and egg mats in the river reaches where spawning is observed. While the timing of the workshop was selected for training reasons and not for the presence of fish, it was a great surprise for the participants to handle three sturgeons during the course of the training. WWF in conjunction with the Environmental Ministry of Georgia plans to implement the monitoring plan from 2023 on to assess the state and development of the sturgeon populations in the rivers entering the Black Sea basin. As a result of overharvest and massive constructions along the rivers of western Georgia, of the five species present in the past, one is already extinct and the reproductive success of all other species seems unclear. Therefore, it will be of utmost importance to obtain a sound data base on the current condition of the populations in the different rivers and in a second step assess optimization potential for the operation of the hydropower facilities on the main sturgeon rivers.