Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 25, Issue 14, pp 2929–2945 | Cite as

Who owns sturgeon in the Caspian? New theoretical model of social responses towards state conservation policy

  • Ilya ErmolinEmail author
  • Linas Svolkinas
Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Coastal and marine biodiversity


This article explores responses to the implementation of Russian sturgeon conservation policy in three fishing communities (in Dagestan, Kalmykia and the Volga River delta areas), along the Western and Northern coasts of the Caspian Sea. Enforcement of regulatory measures has led to complex socio-cultural responses. We show how social responses to conservation policy generate various forms of poaching. An analytical model of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ forms of poaching is analyzed against three regulatory measures: introduction of specially designated fishing areas in Russia’s Caspian fisheries, border zone expansion and the ban on sturgeon fishing. We explain why in Kalmykia the policy led people to stop practicing hard forms of sturgeon fishing, while fishermen in Dagestan responded in a more complex manner by displaying resistance towards the new policies.


Compliance Non-compliance Anti-poaching measures Sturgeon poaching Caspian Sea Soft and hard forms of poaching 



The authors would like to thank the Mohammed bin Zayed Conservation Fund (Grants no. 12253827 and 13257683) and the Committee for Exploration and Research of the US National Geographic Society (Grant no. W 271-13) for the financial support that made possible fieldwork in Russia. Special thanks goes to Prof. Sandra Bell (Durham University, UK), Dr. Simon Goodman and Dr. Lilya Dmitrieva (Leeds University, UK), Prof. Victor de Munck (State University of New York, USA) and the anonymous reviewers for their useful comments and advices.

Compliance with ethical standards

The study has been conducted in accordance with the Principals of Professional Responsibility approved by the American Anthropological Association (AAA).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy; Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public AdministrationMoscowRussian Federation
  2. 2.School of Earth and EnvironmentUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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