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International caviar trade suspended


03 Jan 2006, Gland, Switzerland – WWF welcomes a recent announcement by the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) to not approve 2006 caviar export quotas for the Caspian Sea basin, agreeing that it is vital that caviar exporting countries provide the scientific basis to assess the sustainability of their sturgeon stocks.

"WWF welcomes this strong action by the CITES Secretariat and hopes that it will help preserve the sturgeon for future generations,” said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme.

“Sturgeon have been in dire straits for some time and it has been clear that something drastic had to be done to stop the rampant trade in illegal caviar and to ensure that the legal trade is sustainable and properly regulated.”

Around 60 per cent of the caviar that is traded legally each year is imported by western European countries. Most of the caviar in the European market comes from Iran and the Russian Federation, the world’s largest exporters. The annual retail value of the global caviar trade is likely to be as high as several hundred million Euros, with 100g of the exclusive Beluga caviar costing as much as €600 for example.

In accordance with CITES Appendix II, export permits (and quotas) should only be issued if they are based on sound science, ensuring that the trade is sustainable. WWF also shares the concerns about the high levels of illegal trade. It is vital that exporting and importing countries are vigilant in terms of enforcement, as well as in terms of implementation of the CITES labelling requirements.

“WWF also calls on caviar producing and importing countries to help wipe out the illegal trade in caviar with tough enforcement measures, including anti-poaching efforts and implementation of the CITES labelling requirements" Lieberman added.

Of particular note is the CITES Secretariat’s call for importing countries — such as the European Union and the United States — to meet their obligations and fully implement the measures they have agreed to in order to ensure that imports are from legal sources, and with proper registration and labelling.

Under the CITES caviar labelling system, all caviar products need to incorporate non-reusable labels sealing the container and containing information such as the source of the caviar, its country of origin or re-packaging, the code of the processing plant or CITES permit numbers. This would not only apply to exported and re-exported caviar shipments, but also to all caviar tins, jars and other primary containers sold to the public in retail outlets in domestic markets.

According to CITES, the information recently provided by the sturgeon-exporting countries bordering the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea/lower Danube River, and the Heilongjiang/Amur River on the Sino-Russian border indicates that many of the sturgeon species in these shared fishing grounds are suffering serious population declines. The Secretariat is concerned that the proposed quotas, while lower than for previous years, may not fully reflect the reductions in stocks or make sufficient allowance for illegal fishing.

“It is important that efforts are taken to ensure the conservation of all Eurasian populations of the ten species of sturgeon, and that actions are taken by all the relevant range States of the Amur River, Sea of Azov, Black Sea and Caspian Sea,” Lieberman said.


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