National Geographic : 1991 Feb
fingerlings. And it is nearly man-killed. In the frothy water spilling from the Volgo grad dam, fishermen hustled hundred-pound specimens onto a research boat. Technicians weighed them, checked for disease, took fin samples to reckon age. One of the five females opened that morning bore not iridescent black roe but a 25-pound egg sac of gray mush. "About a thousand dollars' worth of caviar wasted," fisheries biologist Iurii Dolidze said with disgust. Pollution is apparently the major cause of rotten eggs, frequently seen in the caviar har vest. The river carries heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium, petroleum residues, and PCBs from factories-plus fertilizers and pesticides from farms. Engineers had fitted the dams with eleva tors to hoist sturgeon upstream. But the reser voirs were heavily polluted. Females could not find their way and aborted. Or the eggs they deposited became crow food when reservoir levels were lowered to meet power demands. Fewer and fewer fingerlings started the journey back to the Caspian, until fishery experts gave up on maintaining the migration. "I'm not boasting of anything today," Iurii said with candor unthinkable a few years ago. "I have nothing to boast of." With the harvest declining, few Russians see the prized caviar at all; most is exported to earn hard currency. The Ideals of V. I. Lenin Live and Win. -NEON SIGN ON THE VOLGOGRAD POST OFFICE In Volgograd -the name was changed from Stalingrad in 1961-water and air pollution helped make the Ecology Club a political powerhouse. "We presented our complaints to Commu nist Party committees, but they never did any thing," club member Leonid Krupatin said. In last year's elections the club took its case to the voters. Leonid is one of 12 club members who won seats on local and regional councils; another went to Russia's Congress of People's Deputies in Moscow. Mother Russia was still angry when her like ness was raised in the 1960s on the site of the Battle of Stalingrad. Demolished during com bat with the Germans in World War II, the city-now known as Volgograd-was totally rebuilt; new factories and apartment blocks extend for 40 miles along the Volga River.