Azerbaijan | Gizilaghaj State Reserve to be expanded to NP, including first MPA in Caspian Sea
Azerbaijan is upgrading and expanding the Gizilaghaj State Reserve to become a National Park and will include the first Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Caspian Sea, the largest inland body of water on the planet. The new MPA will seek to protect six significant marine species on the brink of extinction, including the Beluga sturgeon and the Caspian salmon.
The State Reserve in south-eastern Azerbaijan was created in 1929 for the purpose of protecting migrant, swamp and wild birds, and was declared a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 2001. In addition, the reserve lies just south of the mouth of the Kura and Aras rivers which provide the spawning grounds for different sturgeon species. As anadromous fish, the young sturgeon will make their way down the river towards the sea for hundreds of kilometres and naturally seek shallow, brackish coastal habitats where they can feed on worms, shrimp, and small fish in the muddy substrate and gradually adapt to changes in salinity and pressure. They spend three to four years in this environment before they head out into the Caspian Sea.