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Eight foot missing fish arrives

10 June 2004

An eight-foot fish, recently at the centre of a legal dispute, was handed over to the Natural History Museum yesterday by Cornish fish merchant Tim Alsop.

Sturgeons are rarely seen in UK waters. This rare sturgeon specimen was caught off the coast of Wales last Wednesday but mysteriously disappeared a day later. Devon and Cornwall Police were called in to investigate and they treated the disappearance as theft. An appeal was made for the fish to be returned and donated to the Museum.

A royal fish

Before the theft took place legal rights to the fish were already being investigated. The sturgeon is believed to be an Atlantic species and as such would be classed as a royal fish.

Being a royal fish, if caught, it becomes the property of the crown. The dealer had therefore approached Buckingham Palace and been granted permission to dispose of it as he wished.

Protected species

The sturgeon species is protected by CITES wildlife legislation. The fish is exploited worldwide to make caviar, made from its eggs.

There are more than 25 species of sturgeon and all are threatened with extinction because of pollution of breeding grounds and mismanagement of fisheries.

Sturgeon, Acipenseridae, are bottom-feeding fish that have existed for 300 million years. They range from 2.5 to 3.5 metres in length with some capable of growing much larger.

New home

The controversial sturgeon has now been recovered and the owner has decided to donate it to the Museum, where it will be looked after along with 27 million other zoological specimens.