As a consequence of unsustainable fishing pressure (including substantial illegal fishing for caviar production) as well as habitat loss and pollution, 20 of the 26 sturgeon species are classified as critically endangered (IUCN). In fact, sturgeons are currently considered the most threatened of all animal groups.
While sturgeon aquaculture is contributing significantly to the global conservation of wild populations by supplying the market with more than 90% of the international trade in caviar, stock enhancement programmes are constrained by the low degree of refinement in adapting production to the requirements of stocking healthy and vigorously viable fish in sufficient quantities.
Notably, sturgeons are long-lived and late maturing (European sturgeon lives more than 100 years and first matures at 15-18 years of age). As such, the late age of puberty adds to a major production bottleneck in sturgeon aquaculture both due to time constraints as well as to the impact of long term rearing on the plasticity of the adult population requiring adaptive measures also for broodstock maintenance.