[Federal Register: July 31, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 147)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 49657-49665]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AI 11

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing the Beluga 
Sturgeon (Huso huso) as Endangered

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: In this proposed rule, we, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service), propose to list the beluga sturgeon (Huso huso) as 
endangered pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act). The beluga sturgeon inhabits the Caspian and Black Seas, and 
spawns in the rivers that constitute the drainage basins of these seas. 
Loss of habitat throughout historic spawning areas due to dam 
construction and river-modification projects, over-harvest, widespread 
poaching and illegal trade, and pollution imperil the continued 
existence of this species. Due to the threat of over-harvest, this 
species was listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International 
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1998, 
when all previously unlisted Acipenseriformes were listed, to conserve 
all sturgeon and paddlefish species in international trade. Despite the 
CITES listing, beluga sturgeon populations have continued to decline, 
and the population structure is increasingly skewed towards sub-adult 
fish, with a critical lack of spawning-age adult female fish. This 
proposal, if made final, would extend the Act's protection to this 
species. The Service seeks data and comments from the public on this 

DATES: We must receive comments and information from all interested 
parties by October 29, 2002. Public hearing requests must be received 
by September 16, 2002.

ADDRESSES: Submit any comments, information, and questions by mail to 
the Chief, Division of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 750, Arlington, Virginia 22203, or 
by fax, 703-358-2276, or by e-mail, Scientificauthority@fws.gov. 
Comments and supporting information will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marie Maltese at the above address, or 
by phone, 703-358-1708; fax, 703-358-2276; or e-mail, 



    The beluga sturgeon (Huso huso, Linnaeus, 1758), is a member of the 
genus Huso, family Acipenseridae, order Acipenseriformes, class 
Osteichthyes, phylum Chordata, and kingdom Animalia (Pirogovskii et 
al., 1989). The family Acipenseriformes encompasses all species of 
sturgeon and paddlefish, the caviar-producing fishes considered the 
most economically valuable fish in the world. Sturgeon have been prized 
for their roe and flesh since ancient times (Bacalbasa-Dobrovici, 
1997). The historic range of the beluga sturgeon included the Caspian 
Sea, Black Sea, Adriatic Sea, Sea of Azov, and all rivers within their 
watersheds (Khodorevskaya et al., 2000). Range countries include 
Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, 
the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Moldova, 
Romania, the Russian Federation, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and 
Yugoslavia. The Adriatic Sea population is considered extirpated, and 
the last record of a wild-caught specimen in the Sea of Azov occurred 
during the mid-1980s (TRAFFIC/Europe, 1999).
    Birstein (1997) notes that any remnant beluga sturgeon population 
found within the Sea of Azov is maintained solely through stocking with 
hatchery-reared fish. The current range of the beluga sturgeon is 
limited to the Caspian and Black Seas, where until the 1990s, an 
estimated 80-90 percent of the world's sturgeon harvest were harvested 
from the Caspian Sea and lower reaches of the Volga River 
(Khodorevskaya et al., 2000). Records compiled during the 19th Century 
indicated that the Black Sea H. huso population over-wintered and 
spawned as far north as the Austrian and Bavarian portions of the 
Danube River.
    Beluga sturgeon are extremely vulnerable to depletion due to their 
unique life-history characteristics. The species is remarkably long-
lived and slow to mature. The oldest recorded harvested sturgeon was 
found to be 118 years of age (DeMeulenaer and Raymakers, 1996), and 
100-year-old beluga sturgeon were commonly taken in the northern 
Caspian Sea during the early 20th Century (Khodorevskaya et al., 2000). 
However, current estimates indicate that the oldest fish harvested are 
50-55 years of age, with the average age less than 35 years old 
(Khodorevskaya et al., 2000).
    Reproductive maturity is reached between 11 and 17 years 
(Khodorevskaya et al., 1997). Male beluga sturgeon generally spawn once 
every 4-7 years, whereas females reproduce once every 4-8 years 
(Raspopov, 1993). Fecundity in adult females increases with age; an 
individual fish generally produces a greater number of eggs during each 
subsequent spawning run. Adult females are capable of producing up to 
12 percent of their body weight in roe (DeMeulenaer and Raymakers, 
1996). Reproductively mature females are targeted in the fishery. 
Therefore, continuous removal of the older segment of the population 
has skewed the current population structure towards younger sub-adults, 
and removed egg-bearing individuals from the population during the life 
stage that ensures the survival of the species (Khodorevskaya et al., 
1997). Many female beluga sturgeon will never reach a size or age that 
yields peak egg production, and may have only spawned once prior to 
harvest. Moreover, increased poaching and by-catch indiscriminately 
harvest juvenile sturgeon, which represent a significant loss to future 
breeding populations.

The Caspian Sea Population

    Khodorevskaya et al. (2000) noted that the number of beluga 
sturgeon in

[[Page 49658]]

the Caspian Sea was ``considerably lower than those of other 
acipenserids.'' In 1978, the total population was estimated at 12.1 
million individuals, with a decrease to 8.9 million individuals by 
1994. Data from a CITES-sponsored status survey conducted in 2001 
yielded an estimate of 9.3 million individuals in the northern and 
central Caspian Sea (Moiseev, 2002). This figure was submitted to the 
CITES Secretariat by the Management Authority for Sturgeon of the 
Russian Federation. However, several U.S. fisheries scientists believe 
the current calculation of the northern and central Caspian Sea beluga 
sturgeon population may be an over-estimate, because of questions 
raised about the methodology and data interpretation employed in the 
survey report. Based on Soviet and Russian Federation fisheries 
reports, the absolute number of H. huso in the wild has decreased 
dramatically over the past 30 years and continues to decline at an 
alarming rate.
    The population structure of beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea has 
also shifted over the past 30 years, adding to concerns regarding 
declines in abundance. The efficiency of natural spawning has decreased 
due to a smaller mean juvenile sturgeon size in the Volga River system 
(Khodorevskaya et al., 1997), younger mean adult age (Khodorevskaya et 
al., 2000), a shift in the predominant age of spawning fish from 
greater than 26 years to 11-17 years, and most notably, the overall 
lack of available spawning-age fish (Khodorevskaya et al., 2000). 
During the early 1970s, an estimated 25,000 Caspian Sea beluga sturgeon 
migrated up the Volga River to spawn. However, by the early 1990s, this 
estimate had dropped to 7,000 spawning fish (Khodorevskaya et al., 
2000). Additionally, the relative percentage of older fish dropped from 
16.9 percent during the period 1966-1970, to 3.7 percent during 1991-
1995 (Khodorevskaya et al., 2000).
    Replacement and augmentation of beluga sturgeon populations with 
hatchery-produced fish has resulted in an H. huso population in the 
Volga River complex that is believed to consist of 96.3 percent 
hatchery-reared fish (Khodorevskaya et al., 1997). At the present time, 
it is believed that the Caspian Sea population is no longer naturally 
reproducing (Birstein, 1997; Khodorevskaya et al., 1997; Khodorevskaya 
et al., 2000). Intensive hatchery production has been used as a method 
of supplementing and maintaining wild stocks since the mid-1950s 
(Birstein, 1997; Secor et al., 2000). However, stocking programs for 
Caspian Sea sturgeon decreased during the late 1980s, continued to 
decline during the upheaval resulting from the dissolution of the 
Soviet Union in 1991, and persists to the present time. The 
deterioration of sturgeon stocking programs is attributed to (a) 
differing priorities of former Soviet nations that are struggling to 
develop independent economies; (b) an aging hatchery infrastructure 
throughout the region, and (c) the inability to procure sufficient wild 
broodstock for beluga sturgeon culture and stocking programs. In 1995, 
the number of female beluga sturgeon taken in the Volga River delta was 
considered to be insufficient to support hatchery production efforts 
(Birstein et al., 1997). This trend continues, as Russian fisheries 
officials recently observed that there were few, if any, large 
spawning-age females available to provide hatchery broodstock (TRAFFIC/
Europe, 1999).
    The World Conservation Union (IUCN) classifies the Caspian Sea Huso 
huso population as endangered (IUCN, 2000). Furthermore, this species 
is designated as one whose natural reproduction is limited and requires 
stocking of artificially bred juveniles to maintain the population. 
Although hatchery releases have helped to augment wild populations 
during the past 50 years, there is concern throughout the scientific 
community that stocking programs are only a short-term solution 
(Birstein, 1997). Artificial hatchery production is only one of many 
strategies required to protect and increase levels of natural 
reproduction of sturgeon stocks worldwide. The primary goal is to 
implement a comprehensive long-term inter-jurisdictional fisheries 
management plan that includes hatchery production and allocates a 
shared resource in a sustainable manner.

The Black Sea Population

    Beluga sturgeon have been commercially harvested in the Black Sea 
for more than 2,000 years (Bacalbasa-Dobrovici, 1997b). By the mid-19th 
Century, harvest of beluga sturgeon declined rapidly, particularly in 
the Danube River watershed, the traditional spawning grounds for the 
Black Sea population. Only 16 individuals were taken from 1857 to 1957, 
in the middle and upper reaches of the Danube River (Hensel and Holcik, 
1997). The Iron Gates I (Djerdap I) and Iron Gates II (Djerdap II) 
dams, constructed late in the 20th Century, blocked spawning 
migrations, which further reduced the remnant populations of the middle 
and upper Danube River (Hensel and Holcik, 1997).
    By 1835, the beluga sturgeon population in the lower Danube River 
was also in decline. Commercial landings at the beginning of the 20th 
Century continued to decrease at a rapid rate. Harvest in the lower 
Danube River ebbed to 220 tons per year by the 1960s, and by 1994, the 
fishery was reduced to an average annual harvest of 12.7 tons 
(Bacalbasa-Dobrovici, 1997b). Beluga sturgeon are listed by IUCN as 
``extirpated'' from the upper reaches of the Danube River, ``critically 
endangered'' in the middle reaches, and ``vulnerable'' in the lower 
Danube River (Hensel and Holcik, 1997; IUCN, 2000).

Summary of Factors Affecting the Beluga Sturgeon

    Section 4(a)(1) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and regulations 
promulgated to implement the listing provisions of the Act (50 CFR part 
424) set forth the procedures for adding species to the Federal lists. 
A species may be determined to be an endangered or threatened species 
due to one or more of the five factors described in section 4(a)(1). 
These factors and their application to beluga sturgeon (Huso huso) are 
as follows:

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Beluga Sturgeon Habitat or Range

    Current data suggest that beluga sturgeon populations are highly 
depleted and natural reproduction is limited to a small, highly 
compromised portion of the species' historic spawning habitat. 
Approximately 85 percent (Secor et al., 2000) to 90 percent 
(Barannikova et al., 1995) of all spawning grounds previously utilized 
by the Caspian Sea beluga sturgeon population have been destroyed or 
are no longer accessible for spawning runs because of dam construction 
and other river modifications. Messier (1998) noted that the surface 
area of the Caspian Sea is some 169,000 square miles, yet all sturgeon 
species that spawn in the Volga River utilize an area no larger than 
1,000 acres (405 hectares) near the mouth of the river. Secor et al. 
(2000) observed that greater than 90 percent of the current Caspian Sea 
beluga sturgeon population is believed to be hatchery-reared progeny. 
Beluga sturgeon no longer spawn in Azerbaijan, and spawning is limited 
in the Russian Federation, Turkey, the Ukraine, and several rivers in 
Iran (DeMeulenaer and Raymakers, 1996).
    Dams, river channelization, and other man-made changes to flow 
regimes significantly reduced the amount of available spawning habitat 

[[Page 49659]]

sturgeon range countries. The Volga, Ural, Kura, Terek, and Sulak 
Rivers are all segments of the species' former historic spawning range. 
Today, the Ural River is the only river system within the Caspian Sea 
region that is not dammed and continues to allow adequate passage to 
historic spawning areas (Khodorevskaya et al., 1997). Recent 
information suggests that poaching may have destroyed the Ural River 
beluga sturgeon spawning stock (DeMeulenaer and Raymakers, 1996).
    During the 1950s, all remaining northern and western Caspian Sea 
tributaries were dammed for hydroelectric power generation (DeMeulenaer 
and Raymakers, 1996). It is believed that the Volga River may sustain 
6,000-8,000 beluga sturgeon of spawning age. Of this figure, 
approximately 2,000 are believed to be mature females (Khodorevskaya et 
al., 1997). However, construction of the Volgograd Dam from 1958 to 
1960 reduced traditional spawning grounds by 88 percent (Levin, 1995). 
An estimated 208,000 hectares in additional river systems throughout 
the Russian Federation have been lost as potential spawning grounds for 
beluga sturgeon due to river modifications. The spawning grounds of the 
Don and Kuban Rivers in the Russian Federation are no longer accessible 
to spawning sturgeon. The Terek and Sulak Rivers, and the Sea of Azov 
are likewise compromised by pollution and damming. These areas can no 
longer sustain spawning runs of beluga sturgeon (Khodorevskaya et al., 
    In Iran, the Mangil Dam on the Sefidrud River is another barrier to 
traditional spawning runs. Additionally, Hensel and Holcik (1997) 
suggested that the Sefidrud River sturgeon spawning migration is also 
unproductive because traditional spawning areas have been destroyed by 
heavy industrial pollution and water extraction.
    Approximately 85 percent of the Black Sea's Danube River delta has 
been diked, producing over 300 reservoirs throughout the river basin. 
Substantial losses of sturgeon spawning habitat in the area have been 
attributed to dam and reservoir construction, other man-made river 
modifications, and increased sand and gravel dredging (Bacalbasa-
Dobrovici, 1997b). Beluga sturgeon were once abundant in the Danube 
River. Harvest rates during the mid-1970s averaged 23 metric tons 
annually. However, after the construction of the Djerdap Dams I and II 
during the mid-1980s, harvest rates continued to drop (Hensel and 
Holcik, 1997). By 1994, annual estimates of beluga sturgeon harvest 
declined to12.7 tons, indicative of the dams' effect on spawning 
sturgeon populations (Bacalbasa-Dobrovici, 1997b). The H. huso 
population in the lower reaches of the Danube River is considered non-
self-sustaining by international fisheries scientists. In the late 
1980s, Turkish authorities located only five or six mature females in 
the Coruh River, and an additional 20 mature females in the Kizikirnak 
River during a quest to collect broodfish for hatchery programs 
(Edwards and Doroshov, 1989).

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    Overutilization is the most significant factor in the rapid decline 
of the beluga sturgeon. The expansion of legal sturgeon fisheries in 
former Soviet range nations after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, 
and consequent disregard of the former Soviet moratorium on harvest of 
open sea sturgeons (Secor et al., 2000) have resulted in intensified 
fishing effort and over-exploitation that have further reduced 
populations already in decline for decades. The effects of legal 
harvest are further compounded by the ever-increasing illegal harvest 
of the species. DeMeulenaer and Raymakers (1996) estimated the illegal 
harvest at 6-10 times larger than the legal market, although more 
recent assessments put that estimate at 11 times greater than the legal 
market (Volkov, 2001). Illegal harvest and trade rapidly escalated 
during the 1990s, and continue as the price of beluga sturgeon caviar 
rapidly spirals upward.
    The international demand for caviar is the primary factor driving 
over-exploitation of the beluga sturgeon. In 1995, the retail price for 
one pound of beluga caviar in the United States was $1,000.00 
(DeMeulenaer and Raymakers, 1996); today beluga caviar sells for 
$1,500.00 per pound on the U.S. retail market (Petrossian, 2002).
    Sturgeon are killed to collect their roe, thereby removing 
spawning-age adults from the population prior to spawning. In this 
fishery, male fish are also killed because the sexes are 
morphometrically similar and it is nearly impossible to visually 
distinguish a male from a female sturgeon. Furthermore, harvesting the 
younger segment of a population removes fish that may have spawned only 
once, if at all. Therefore, these fish never reach the age of maximum 
egg production, when an individual's contribution to the survival of 
the species is greatest.
    The caviar market is highly lucrative and involves a product that 
is readily poached, in great demand, generates maximum prices, and is 
packaged in small containers that are relatively easy to smuggle. 
Although the caviar trade has been a highly profitable economic staple 
in the region for centuries, it was formerly conducted under a strictly 
controlled monopoly in Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union. The 
sturgeon fishery was closely monitored, substantially restricted, and 
highly regulated. Program highlights included specific harvest 
regulations, a moratorium on open-sea harvest, and a stocking program 
that has been in effect continually from the late 1950s, albeit in 
much-reduced circumstances since the late 1980s (Secor et al., 2000).
    The northern Caspian Sea sturgeon fishery declined rapidly after 
the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The loss of centralized 
control resulted in resumption of open-sea sturgeon fisheries, rapidly 
escalating illegal harvest, a lack of effective enforcement measures, 
and reduced availability of wild broodstock, which sharply curtails 
hatchery production and re-stocking programs.
    During the 1950s, sturgeon harvest effort was reduced due to 
technological advancements ascribed to the use of plastic nets in the 
fishery. However, this improvement for fishers proved disastrous for 
sturgeon because the new nets profoundly increased the number of 
juvenile sturgeon taken incidentally to targeted harvest of other 
Caspian Sea species. In 1957, 1.8 million juvenile sturgeon, of a total 
2.6 million sturgeon harvested in the Caspian Sea, were taken as by-
catch. By-catch of pre-spawning-age sturgeon increased to an estimated 
2-3 million fish by 1959-1961 (Khodorevskaya et al., 1997). In 1967, 
the Soviet Union instituted a ban in the Caspian Sea on open-sea 
harvest of all anadromous fish species, to eliminate by-catch mortality 
of juvenile sturgeon (Secor et al., 2000). However, with the loss of 
the Soviet state sturgeon monopoly, by-catch of juvenile and adult 
beluga sturgeon is once again common in open-sea Caspian Sea fisheries, 
particularly the anchovy fishery (TRAFFIC/Europe, 1999). The effect of 
by-catch on beluga sturgeon populations has not been recently 
quantified. However, the resumption of open-sea fisheries harvest in 
the Caspian Sea increases the risk of injury and mortality to all 
juvenile and adult sturgeon, adding to the decline in populations, 
potential changes to already skewed population structures, and a 
significant impact on future stock recruitment.
    In 1970, the Caspian Sea beluga sturgeon harvest was estimated at 
2,800 tons, but by 1994, less that 300 tons

[[Page 49660]]

were legally taken (Khodorevskaya et al., 1997). The most recent 
estimates of yield, based on 1970s fishery data, indicate that 7 kg of 
caviar are retrieved for every 100 kg of total harvest (males and 
females; Doroshov and Binkowski, 1985, cited in Williot and 
Bourguignon, 1991). Excepting Iran, the countries that participate in 
the Caspian Sea sturgeon fishery are still developing an effective 
regional sturgeon management program.

C. Disease or Predation

    Disease and reproductive abnormalities associated with pollution 
have been observed in beluga sturgeon throughout their range. The World 
Bank estimates that one million cubic meters of untreated industrial 
wastewater are discharged annually into the Caspian Sea (U.S. Dept. of 
Energy, 2000). Contamination byproducts from fossil fuel exploration, 
production, and refining, untreated sewage, agricultural runoff, and 
other industrial effluents exacerbate the problem. These toxins have 
been associated with reproductive abnormalities, tumors, and large fish 
kills in the Caspian Sea (U.S. Dept. of Energy, 2000).
    Large-scale muscle degeneration has also been observed in all 
sturgeon species inhabiting the Caspian Sea. It has been suggested that 
muscular atrophy is caused by toxicosis resulting from increasing 
pollution levels throughout the region. Bio-accumulation of heavy 
metals and toxins associated with pesticides in the muscle and organ 
tissue of this long-lived species is of grave concern. Likewise, bio-
accumulation of hazardous wastes may be having an effect on the 
reproductive health of the species. Sampling conducted during 1990 
yielded abnormalities in 100% of the sturgeon eggs collected in the 
Volga River (all species were sampled), and even more alarming, 100% of 
the embryos studied were non-viable (Khodorevskaya et al., 1997). 
Hatchery-reared sturgeon are not immune to disease problems. Anecdotal 
information indicates that many of the stocked hatchery-reared fish are 
blind, due to an eye parasite (R. St. Pierre, personal communication).
    The ctenophore, American comb jellyfish (Mnemiopsis leidyi), was 
introduced into the Black Sea in 1982, from dumping of ship ballast 
water. Given that there are no known Black Sea predators of the comb 
jellyfish, its growth has been explosive. Within 7 years, the biomass 
of M. leidyi in the Black Sea had grown to 800 million metric tons 
(Bacalbasa-Dobrovici, N.,1997a). Comb jellyfish feed on prey that are 
utilized by small marine fishes, such as anchovies, and include 
zooplankton, pelagic fish eggs, embryos, and larvae. These fish are in 
turn preyed upon by the piscivorous beluga sturgeon. To characterize 
this concern, the feeding habits of the comb jellyfish resulted in the 
complete collapse of the Sea of Azov anchovy fishery in 1989. The 
changes in invertebrate distribution and faunal structure caused by M. 
leidyi has had a profound influence on Black Sea sturgeon populations 
by altering their prey base (Kovalev et al., 1994, as cited in 
Bacalbasa-Dobrovici, 1997a).

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Currently, harvest of beluga sturgeon is prohibited in Moldova and 
the Ukraine. It remains a commercially harvested species in all other 
range countries. Huso huso was listed in the Red Data Book of the 
Ukraine in 1992, so there has been no commercial harvest in the Ukraine 
since that time. Most range states require a commercial fishing 
license, although Azerbaijan did not establish this requirement until 
2000. Annual catch quotas are set by Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, the Czech 
Republic, Iran, Kazakhstan, Romania, the Russian Federation, and 
Yugoslavia. Iran and Turkmenistan prohibit all private sturgeon 
fisheries; the fishery is a state-controlled monopoly in these 
countries. In 1996, the Caspian Sea range countries signed an agreement 
that would prohibit open-sea fishing, thereby protecting immature 
sturgeon stocks. However, the agreement has been difficult to enforce 
and large-scale organized poaching continues.
    Despite the quotas, the agreement banning open-sea fishing, and 
other conservation measures taken by range countries, the sturgeon 
fishery continues to be exploited by each range country without 
adequate fishery management programs that would utilize the fishery as 
a shared resource. We hope that the regional management program that is 
currently being prepared for submission to the CITES Secretariat in 
June 2002 will address the importance of inter-jurisdictional 
management of all sturgeon species, including beluga sturgeon. 
Khodorevskaya (2000) and TRAFFIC Europe-Russia (1999) noted that many 
scientists and regulators believe that the failure of regulatory 
oversight in the Caspian Sea region is an important factor contributing 
to the rapid decline of beluga sturgeon populations.
    Although Iran continues to implement a successful annual stocking 
program, as well as strict management and enforcement measures to 
conserve beluga sturgeon, the remaining harvesting nations of the 
Caspian Sea have yet to implement effective inter-jurisdictional 
sturgeon management programs. Many stocking programs initiated during 
the 1950s to replenish sturgeon stocks have been seriously curtailed 
due to the lack of state support, plant closures, an aging hatchery 
infrastructure with inadequate funding for maintenance, and severely 
reduced production (Birstein et al., 1997; Secor et al., 2000). 
Compounding the deterioration of formerly successful hatchery and re-
introduction programs in the northern and central Caspian Sea area, 
there is an absence of available wild mature broodstock to augment wild 
populations and improve the genetic variability of those fish currently 
held in hatcheries for culture purposes (Birstein et al., 1997; Secor 
et al., 2000).
    Beluga sturgeon was first listed as endangered by the IUCN in 1996 
(IUCN, 2000). In an assessment by TRAFFIC (1999), the state of all 
Russian sturgeon populations was considered ``catastrophic.'' 
International conservation measures were taken in 1998 to address 
escalating concerns regarding the status of Caspian Sea sturgeon. At 
that time, all previously unlisted Acipenseriformes species were 
included in Appendix II of CITES. An Appendix-II listing requires that 
all specimens of listed species, including parts and products, must be 
accompanied by an export permit issued by a designated Management 
Authority in the country of origin. An export permit may only be issued 
after two findings are made: the Management Authority must find that 
the specimen(s) were legally acquired, and the designated Scientific 
Authority must determine that allowing the export will not be 
detrimental to the survival of the species.
    In 2001, the results of the CITES ``Review of Significant Trade'' 
(Resolution Conf. 8.9 (Rev.)) prompted the CITES Standing Committee to 
recommend, with the full agreement of the Caspian Sea nations, a plan 
of action to ensure control over the trade in sturgeon products, 
improve law enforcement efforts, and facilitate the development of 
regional cooperative management plans for all Caspian Sea sturgeon 
species. These recommendations also included a 90 percent reduction of 
the 2001 sturgeon harvest quotas, and closure of the fall 2001 harvest 
season. In June 2001, the CITES ``Paris Agreement,'' developed at the 
45th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee, required the Russian 
Federation, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan to develop a regional management 
and monitoring plan for beluga and other

[[Page 49661]]

sturgeon species at risk. Turkmenistan, although not a signatory to 
CITES at that time, planned to assist in the development of this inter-
jurisdictional management program. The Paris Agreement requires 
submission of the draft management plan to CITES authorities no later 
than June 30, 2002. The details of the plan's provisions to reduce or 
halt stock declines, decrease poaching levels, curb illegal trade, and 
rebuild spawning populations are unknown at this time. Finally, the 
Caspian Sea nations were directed to conduct a comprehensive survey of 
Caspian Sea sturgeon populations before December 31, 2001. Preliminary 
reports indicate that only 28 beluga sturgeon were located during the 
survey, and over 75 percent of those specimens were immature fish. The 
final report, including an analysis of data from the completed survey, 
contains sturgeon population abundance estimates and has been posted on 
the web site of the CITES Secretariat.
    Earlier this year, the Management Authority for Sturgeon of the 
Russian Federation, representing the four former Soviet range states 
(Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, and Turkmenistan), 
submitted a document to the CITES Secretariat entitled: ``Total 
allowable catch (TAC) estimation for sturgeon species in the Caspian 
Sea.'' This document discussed the methodology used to derive total 
allowable catch (TAC) limits for the Caspian Sea sturgeon fishing 
stock, and supports the nations' declaration of Caspian Sea sturgeon 
harvest quotas established for the 2002 fishing season. The TAC report 
was based on the results of sampling conducted in the northern and 
central Caspian Sea from August 9 through September 25, 2001. Sampling 
was undertaken as the result of a three-stage, 12-month plan of action 
that was produced during the 45th meeting of the CITES Standing 
Committee. This plan was developed to assist the Caspian Sea nations in 
the creation of a science-based management system for the long-term 
conservation and sustainable use of sturgeon (CITES Secretariat, 2001). 
The goal of the survey was to estimate the abundance of each sturgeon 
species, the number of reproductively mature individuals of each 
species, and the potential size of the entire sturgeon spawning stock 
by species (Moiseev, 2002). However, after review of the TAC report, 
several U.S. fisheries experts (P. Bettoli Ph.D., Professor of Biology, 
Certified Fisheries Scientist, and Assistant Unit Leader, Tennessee 
Cooperative Fishery Research Unit of the U.S. Geological Survey-
Biological Resources Division; M. Parsley, Research Fishery Biologist, 
Columbia River Research Laboratory, U.S. Geological Survey Western 
Fisheries Research Center; R. St. Pierre, Fishery Management Biologist, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who serves on the Sturgeon Specialists 
Group (SSG) of The World Conservation Union (IUCN); D. Secor, Ph.D., 
Associate Professor, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory; personal 
communications) found the document to be lacking important data 
necessary in the formation of fishery stock estimations.
    These data include sampling effort, spatial and temporal 
distribution of sampling effort, number of fish taken per trawl in each 
specified area, and size and age distribution of sturgeon taken. 
Several reviewers questioned the derivation of the value of the fishing 
efficiency co-efficient of 0.04 that was used for beluga sturgeon. This 
information is an important construct used to estimate stock abundance 
and total allowable catch. Calculations based on an incorrect fishing 
efficiency coefficient have a large impact on the total stock estimate 

(Bettoli, personal communication). Each reviewer noted that, although 
we are given the total size of the area sampled, and the approximate 
area sampled by the trawls, the TAC report does not list the total 
number of sampling trawls made, an important variable used to calculate 
fishing effort, and consequently, to determine population size. 
Furthermore, although the number of sturgeon captured was tabulated in 
the report, it is impossible to interpret these data without 
information about the size or age of the individuals. The total number 
of trawl samples that failed to capture beluga sturgeon was 
unavailable, as well as any indication that might explain the way in 
which data were utilized when calculating N, the population size.
    A basic assumption used in calculating abundance is that fish are 
not evenly distributed across all habitats in large water bodies. It is 
highly likely that, of the numerous sample trawls made during the 
survey, many did not contain beluga sturgeon. Catch variation was 
probably great, because some hauls may have comprised several or even 
many fish, whereas others were empty. One reviewer noted that the N 
statistic should have been calculated considering the range in 
variance; he observed that the actual population estimate for Caspian 
Sea beluga sturgeon is very likely much lower than the 9.3 million fish 
presented (R. St. Pierre, personal communication). Another reviewer 
independently confirmed the problem of determining N without accounting 
for trawls that failed to capture fish. He noted that a considerable 
number of tows must have failed to capture sturgeons. Excluding these 
tows from the data analysis would result in a ``gross over-estimation 
of N.'' Consequently, an erroneous calculation of N renders all other 
calculations incorrect if they are based on N (M. Parsley, personal 
communication). Furthermore, another variable, the distribution area 
(S), was not clearly defined. Although the report listed several 
different estimates of area, it was unclear which was used as S. It is 
impossible to confirm the estimate of N without a clear definition of 
S, which ultimately leads to the estimate of TAC.
    The methodology used to determine a TAC of 9-17 percent of the 
stock was also of concern, since the TAC report disclosed the quotas 
for the 2002 harvest season, but did not adequately explain how TAC was 
derived. The natural mortality rate of the stock was used as a 
biological reference point (BRP) for determining abundance; however, 
this estimate likely may be inflated. The TAC report assumed a natural 
mortality rate of 13-14 percent for beluga sturgeon, but Bettoli noted 
that a species with a maximum lifespan of 50-70 years would normally be 
expected to have a natural mortality rate closer to 6-8 percent. Using 
an incorrect natural mortality rate could also lead to additional 
faulty conclusions. Bettoli also noted that natural mortality should 
not be used as a BRP, because it cannot be manipulated.
    The TAC report included no discussion of the methodology used to 
calculate gear efficiency, an important consideration when estimating 
abundance. A lower gear efficiency for the 9-meter trawl for beluga, 
compared to that for other species, suggests that the trawl was 
selective for sturgeon size. Beluga sturgeon are much larger in size 
and weight than the other species sampled; a 9-meter trawl would 
probably sample only smaller, non-reproductive-age sturgeon. Gear 
efficiency is a meaningful variable, considering that an average gear 
efficiency for beluga sturgeon would probably, as noted above, over-
estimate abundance for small juveniles, as this size range would be 
captured most frequently. An average gear efficiency would also capture 
few, if any, reproductive-age beluga sturgeon, thereby under-estimating 
abundance for this segment of the population. Secor noted that the 
trawl survey should be used only as a method to determine abundance of 
juvenile and sub-adult beluga sturgeon. If this sampling method were 
used for adult beluga

[[Page 49662]]

sturgeon, the results would likely be distorted.
    Beluga sturgeon are known for skewed and variable size and age 
distributions. Population structure analyses indicate that the juvenile 
proportion of the species is the largest proportion of the stock, and 
it is commonly held that hatchery stocking maintains this segment of 
the population. Therefore, many scientists believe that, without 
continued stocking with hatchery-reared progeny, the species might 
conceivably be extirpated throughout its range. However, the assumption 
that Caspian Sea beluga sturgeon populations are maintained solely 
through hatchery contributions has not been satisfactorily verified. A 
wealth of fisheries data has been collected over the decades for the 
Volga, Danube, and Ural River systems. However, there is a need to 
assess the potential contributions to the stock from populations living 
within the smaller tributaries of the Caspian and Black Seas. At the 
present time, this data is limited, and it is crucial that studies of 
these populations are developed and funded. This data is vital for 
management purposes, as well as plans for future stock enhancement. 
These population studies must be conducted to prevent the possibility 
of losing entire, and at this time relatively unknown, population 
segments that may have a larger impact on overall stocks than 
previously suspected.
    Harvest of beluga sturgeon in the currently permitted open-sea 
fishery of the northern and central Caspian Sea, rather than abiding by 
the former laws limiting harvest to the tributaries, raises the concern 
of impacts to mixed-stock populations that occupy these open waters. If 
this fishery is allowed to continue, it could lead to extirpation of 
local stocks, as it is impossible to determine from which specific 
population individual fish are harvested. Additionally, harvest could 
disproportionately affect a population that is already vulnerable to 
over-exploitation (D. Secor, personal communication).
    One of the most serious concerns, noted by all of the reviewers, 
was the absence of uncertainty, or estimate variance, that should have 
been built into the data analysis presented in the TAC report. The 
reviewers also noted that the quotas allocated for 2002, particularly 
the quota for beluga sturgeon, are probably too liberal.
    The current minimum-size limits for all Russian sturgeons does not 
effectively protect the most vulnerable life-stage, mature females, and 
it is unclear how these limits were derived. The minimum-size limit for 
beluga sturgeon is less than the average size of a mature adult fish. 
This permits take of sub-adult fish that have not previously spawned, 
and renders the species particularly vulnerable to recruitment over-
fishing. Beluga sturgeon are the most sensitive of all the Caspian Sea 
sturgeon species to over-exploitation, due to late maturation and 
infrequent spawning.
    The reviewers commended the Russian Federation for their hatchery 
and stocking programs for beluga sturgeon. However, they were concerned 
about the efficacy of stocking due to the lack of assessment and 
monitoring of the program. The number of fish stocked per unit area is 
modest, and values such as the yield-to-fishery coefficient (percent 
survival), which might yield a greater understanding of the results of 
the program, were not included in the TAC report. Hatchery fish are not 
tagged, and there is no evidence of mark-recapture studies to validate 
the effort.
    Finally, the reviewers were unable to re-create the estimates of 
TAC based on the limited information and methodology provided (M. 
Parsley and P. Bettoli, personal communication). Moreover, there was 
concern that the TAC report failed to factor in estimates of illegal 
harvest and its impacts on population abundance and structure. The 
approach used in preparing the TAC report appeared to be lacking in 
requisite data, and many assumptions were made without providing 
supporting data that would allow others to independently verify the 
methods used to construct these assumptions. The omission of variance 
statistics was of special concern to the reviewers; the lack of these 
statistics is one of the many indications that the monitoring program 
should currently be characterized as experimental and in need of 
further verification and modification before it can be considered a 
fully effective assessment tool. Continuing to utilize the approach 
used to estimate TAC, as detailed in this report, would not provide for 
sustainable future harvest unless factors that influence catch per unit 
effort (CPUE), such as increasing fishing efficiency, are considered. 
This approach could conceivably result in collapse of the fishery (M. 
Parsley, personal communication).
    The illegal trade in beluga sturgeon is conducted outside the 
confines of CITES regulations. As noted previously, it is believed to 
be 6-10 times that of the legal trade (DeMeulenaer and Raymakers, 
1996). The use of falsified documents, caviar mislabeling, mixing of 
species in processed and packaged caviar, and export from countries 
that are not beluga sturgeon range countries is widespread. Smuggling 
is relatively easy, because caviar is packaged in small, lightweight 
containers, and large amounts can be easily transported.
    Poaching and smuggling have been intensively reported in the media 
of range nations and importing countries (Evtouchenko, 1997; McDonald, 
2000; Snyder, 2000). Confiscations have occurred regularly in the 
United States. In the Black Sea region, Turkey and Georgia are among 
the countries that report illegal harvest in their waters. In short, 
there exists a lack of sufficient enforcement capability and ensuing 
penalties for wildlife crimes.

E. Other Natural or Man-Made Factors Affecting the Continued Existence 
of Beluga Sturgeon

    Cyclic changes in sea level within the Caspian Sea have been common 
throughout geologic time (Ivanov, 2000). A drop in sea level from 1970 
through 1977 adversely affected sturgeon populations due to changes in 
biochemical regimes and the subsequent changes in faunal communities 
(Ivanov, 2000; DeMeulenaer and Raymakers, 1996). Although a rise in 
water level between 1978 and 1989 may have had a positive effect on 
other sturgeon species, the average weight of beluga sturgeon continued 
to decrease from 110 kg in 1970, to 57 kg in 1991 (Khodorevskaya et 
al., 1997).
    Genetic alteration and hybridization of sturgeon stocks is also a 
serious concern. It is postulated that the Volga-Don Canal, linking the 
Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, allowed for an ``avalanche'' of genetic 
alteration and hybridization between these sturgeon populations 
(DeMeulenaer and Raymakers, 1996). Although hybridization occurs 
naturally when artificial connections are made between previously 
isolated water bodies, the rapidity with which hybridization occurs is 
accelerated. This process can impact the homogeneity of populations and 
further hamper recovery efforts.
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
faced by beluga sturgeon in determining to propose this rule. Based on 
this evaluation, the preferred action is to list Huso huso as 
endangered. If no action were to be taken, import of beluga caviar into 
the United States (the third-largest beluga caviar importing nation in 
the world) would continue. As a result, fishing effort would increase 
to meet market demand, and absolute numbers of

[[Page 49663]]

available adult female fish would continue to decline. The scarcity, 
popularity, and demand for beluga sturgeon caviar is driving a market 
that cannot be satisfied by current supply, and prices during the last 
decade have escalated ten-fold to reflect the demand. Presently, a 
pound of beluga sturgeon caviar retails for about $1,500.00. The 
significant profit margin resulting from this scarce commodity further 
fuels the trade. Illegal harvest and trade is particularly attractive 
to fishermen in developing former Soviet nations that can make hundreds 
of dollars per fish and traders that realize much larger profits. It is 
quite likely that continued trade will increase the rapidity of beluga 
sturgeon stock declines. Current hypotheses indicate that natural 
reproduction can no longer sustain wild beluga sturgeon populations. 
Indeed, some scientists suggest that wild stocks are now sustained only 
through inadequate hatchery production and stocking programs. It is 
quite possible that we are rapidly approaching the critical point were 
the species will no longer be recoverable.

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Endangered Species Act include recognition, 
recovery actions, requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions 
against certain practices. Recognition through listing results in 
public awareness, and encourages and results in conservation actions by 
Federal and State governments, private agencies and groups, and 
    Section 7(a) of the Act, as amended, and as implemented by 
regulations at 50 CFR part 402, requires Federal agencies to evaluate 
their actions within the United States or on the high seas with respect 
to any species that is proposed or listed as endangered or threatened, 
and with respect to its critical habitat, if any is being designated. 
However, given that beluga sturgeon are not native to the United 
States, no critical habitat is being proposed for designation with this 
proposed rule.
    With respect to the beluga sturgeon, no Federal activities, other 
than the issuance of CITES import and export permits, are currently 
required. Because the beluga sturgeon is listed in Appendix II of 
CITES, a finding of non-detriment must be issued by the Service's 
Division of Scientific Authority (DSA), and the Service's Division of 
Management Authority (DMA) must make a legal acquisition finding, 
before a CITES export permit can be issued for beluga sturgeon. 
However, listing of beluga sturgeon as endangered under the Act would 
require the issuance of Endangered Species Act import and export 
permits by DMA, and consequently a consultation with DSA prior to the 
issuance of the permit.
    The Act and implementing regulations set forth a series of general 
prohibitions and exceptions that generally apply to all endangered 
wildlife. The prohibitions, codified at 50 CFR 17.21, in part, make it 
illegal for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States 
to take (includes harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, 
capture, or collect; or to attempt any of these), within U.S. territory 
or on the high seas, import or export, ship in interstate commerce in 
the course of a commercial activity, or sell or offer for sale in 
interstate or foreign commerce any listed species. It also is illegal 
to possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship any such wildlife 
that has been taken illegally. Certain exceptions apply to employees or 
agents of the Service, and State conservation agencies.
    Permits may be issued to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered wildlife species under certain circumstances. 
Regulations governing permits are codified at 50 CFR part 17.22 and 
17.23. Such permits are available for scientific research purposes, to 
enhance the propagation or survival of the species, and/or for 
incidental take in the course of otherwise lawful activities.
    Requests for copies of the regulations regarding listed wildlife 
and inquiries about prohibitions and permits may be addressed to: 
Division of Scientific Authority, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 750, 
Arlington, Virginia 22203, (telephone: (703) 358-1708; facsimile: (703) 

Public Comments Solicited

    The Service intends that any final action resulting from this 
proposal will be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, 
comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party concerning this proposed rule are hereby solicited. Comments 
particularly are sought concerning biological, commercial trade, or 
other relevant data concerning any threat (or lack thereof) to this 
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Commenters may request that we withhold their home 
address, which we will honor to the extent allowable by law. In some 
circumstances, we may also withhold a commenter's identity, as 
allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name or address, you 
must state this request prominently at the beginning of your comment. 
However, we will not consider anonymous comments. To the extent 
consistent with applicable law, we will make all submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, available for public comment in their entirety. Comments 
and materials received will be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the above address.
    Final promulgation of the regulation(s) on this species will take 
into consideration the comments and any additional information received 
by the Service, and such communications may lead to a final regulation 
that differs from this proposal.
    The Endangered Species Act provides for one or more public hearings 
on this proposal, if requested. Requests must be received within 45 
days of the date of the publication of the proposal in the Federal 
Register. Such requests must be made in writing and be addressed to: 
Chief, Division of Scientific Authority, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 
750, Arlington, Virginia 22203.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 
34270), we will seek expert opinions of at least three appropriate 
independent specialists regarding this proposed rule. The purpose of 
such review is to ensure listing decisions are based on scientifically 
sound data, assumptions, and analysis. We will send copies of this 
proposed rule immediately following publication in the Federal Register 
to these peer reviewers.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that Environmental Assessments and Environmental 
Impact Statements, as defined under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in connection 
with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended.
    This rule contains no information collection requirements. An 
agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to 
respond to a collection

[[Page 49664]]

of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB Control Number.

Clarity of This Regulation

    Executive Order 12866 requires each agency to write regulations 
that are easy to understand. We invite your comments on how to make 
this proposed rule easier to understand, including answers to questions 
such as the following: (1) Are the requirements in the proposed rule 
clearly stated? (2) Does the proposed rule contain technical language 
or jargon that interferes with its clarity? (3) Does the format of the 
proposed rule (groupings and order of sections, use of headings, 
paragraphing, etc.) aid or reduce its clarity? (4) Is the description 
of the proposed rule in the ``Supplementary Information'' section of 
the preamble helpful in understanding the proposed rule? What else 
could we do to make the proposed rule easier to understand?

References Cited

Bacalbasa-Dobrovici, N.1997a. Endangered migratory sturgeons of the 
lower Danube River and its delta. Environmental Biology of Fishes. 
48: 201-207.
Bacalbasa-Dobrovici, N. 1997b. Danube caviar in danger. Sturgeon 
Quarterly, 5:1-2.
Barannikova, I. A., I. A. Burtsev, A.D. Vlasenko, A.D. Gershanovich, 
E.V. Markarov, and M.S. Chebanov. 1995. Sturgeon fisheries in 
Russia, pages 124-130, in Proceedings of the Second International 
Symposium on Sturgeons, September 6-11, 1993. Moscow-Kosyroma-
Moscow. VNIRO Publication.
Birstein, V.J., W.E. Bemis, and J.R. Waldman. 1997. The threatened 
status of Acipenseriformes species: A summary. Environmental Biology 
of Fishes, 48:427.
CITES Secretariat. 2001. Sturgeons, significant trade and the 
``Paris agreement'' CITES World: Official Newsletter of the Parties, 
DeMeulenaer, T., and C. Raymakers. 1996. Sturgeons of the Caspian 
Sea and the international trade in caviar. TRAFFIC International. 71 
Edwards, D., and S. Doroshov. 1989. Appraisal of the sturgeon and 
seatrout fisheries and proposals for a rehabilitation programme. FAO 
Field Document I.TCP/TUR/8853. 38 pp.
Hensel, K. and J. Holcik. 1997. Past and current status of sturgeons 
in the upper and middle Danube River. Environmental Biology of 
Fishes. 48: 185-200.
IUCN. 2000. 2000 IUCN Red list of threatened animals. IUCN, Gland 
and Cambridge.
Ivanov, Vladimir Prokofievich. 2000. Biological Resources of the 
Caspian Sea. KaspNIRKH, Astrakhan. 96 pp.
Khodorevskaya, R.P. et al. 2000. Formation of the stock of the 
Caspian Acipenserids under present-day conditions. Journal of 
Ichthyology, 40(8): 602-609.
Levin, A.V. 1995. The distribution and migration of sturgeons in the 
Caspian Sea. In: Proceedings of the Sturgeon Stocks and Caviar Trade 
Workshop. Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation 
and Nuclear Safety, and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. 
Bonn, Germany.
Messier, M. 1998. The beluga sturgeon: caviar in danger? In TED Case 
Studies: http://www.american.edu/projects/mandala/TED/STURGEON.HTM.
Moiseev, A. 2002. Total allowable catch (TAC) estimation for 
sturgeon species in the Caspian Sea. Management Authority for 
Sturgeon of the Russian Federation. 19 pp.
Petrossian. 2002. http://www.petrossian.com.
Pirogovskii, M. I., L. I. Sokolov, and V. P. Vasilev. 1989. Huso 
huso (Linnaeus, 1758), pages 295-344, in Document Doc. 10.89; Prop. 
10.65. 1997 Proposal to list all Acipenseriformes in Appendix II. 
Submitted by Germany and the United States of America.
Raspopov, V. M. 1993. Growth rate of Caspian Sea beluga. Journal of 
Ichthyology, 33(9) 72-84.
Secor, D.H., V. Arefjev, A. Nikolaev, and A. Sharov. 2000. 
Restoration of sturgeon: lessons from the Caspian Sea Sturgeon 
Ranching Programme. Fish and Fisheries, 1:215-230.
Speer, L., L. Lauck, E. Pikitch, S. Boa, L. Dropkin, V. Spruill. 
2000. Roe to ruin: The decline of sturgeons in the Caspian Sea and 
the road to recovery. Natural Resources Defense Council, Wildlife 
Conservation Society, SeaWeb. 26 pp.
TRAFFIC/Europe. 1999. Estimation of the stock and population 
conditions of sturgeons in Russia and monitoring domestic trade in 
sturgeon products. TRAFFIC Europe-Russia field investigations. 18 
Volkov, K. 2001. The Caviar Game Rules. Reuters-IUCN. 6 pp.

    The primary author of this proposed rule is Marie T. Maltese, 
Division of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 
North Fairfax Drive, Room 750, Arlington, Virginia 22203; telephone, 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we hereby propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of 
chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth 


    1. The authority citation for Part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.

    2. Section Sec. 17.11(h) is amended by adding the following, in 
alphabetical order under FISHES, to the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife:

Sec. 17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

                        Species                                                    Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------------                        population where                                  Critical     Special
                                                            Historic range       endangered or         Status      When listed    habitat       rules
           Common name                Scientific name                              threatened

                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *

[[Page 49665]]

                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *
Sturgeon, beluga.................  Huso huso...........  Azerbaijan,          Entire.............  E               ...........           NA           NA
                                                          Bulgaria, Croatia,
                                                          Czech Republic,
                                                          Georgia, Hungary,
                                                          Islamic Republic
                                                          of Iran,
                                                          Republic of
                                                          Moldova, Romania,
                                                          (Caspian Sea,
                                                          Black Sea,
                                                          Adriatic Sea, Sea
                                                          of Azov and all
                                                          rivers in their

    Dated: July 9, 2002.
Marshall P. Jones, Jr.,
Acting, Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 02-19250 Filed 7-30-02; 8:45 am]