Species: Beluga (Huso huso)
Status: Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting Fact: A female beluga can produce up to 7.5 million eggs when spawning!
This moustachioed looking fish is most famous for its highly prized eggs which are sold as caviar, earning it a listing in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s most expensive fish. Growing up to five metres in length, the beluga is the largest European freshwater fish but spends most of its time at sea, only returning to freshwater in order to breed. It can take up to 18 years for the beluga to reach sexual maturity and even then will only spawn once in every two to four years. It can be incredibly long lived with one individual reported to have reached 118 years in age.
Despite having survived since the time of the dinosaurs, the beluga has suffered a population decline of up to 93% in recent years. A major threat to this species is overfishing for its meat and valuable caviar, which fetched 8,000 USD per kilo in 2009. The trade in this species is currently controlled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and captive breeding programmes are aiming to enhance faltering wild populations.
To find out more about the beluga visit the IUCN website.
Becky Moran, ARKive Media Researcher