Caspian beluga in danger; scientists working out protection project

Off it swims with two others, all trailing satellite receivers wired to their dorsal fins - launching a pilot study expected to yield valuable information about a species of sturgeon hearty enough to have survived from prehistoric times but now on the brink of extinction due to the insatiable appetite of the wealthy for caviar.

If the three beluga sturgeon escape poachers' nets and data are successfully retrieved, the Pew Institute for Ocean Science of the University of Miami will tag more of the fish for the first ever comprehensive study of the Caspian beluga population, the AP reports.

Beluga, whose roe is reputedly the world's most expensive delicacy, is the most threatened species of sturgeon. And the population in the Caspian,which provides 90 percent of beluga caviar, "got hammered very fast," said Phaedra Doukakis, a Pew Institute research scientist.

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