Russia joins fishing ban on endangered sturgeon

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Russia has stopped fishing commercially for sturgeon, the fish that produces caviar, as part of an attempt by Caspian states to arrest the population decline of the valuable species.

Russia has stopped fishing commercially for sturgeon, the fish that produces caviar, as part of an attempt by Caspian states to arrest the population decline of the valuable species.

Despite Russia joining a moratorium yesterday, it would still export its stocks of the black fish eggs within quotas allowed by the United Nations regulators, Anatoly Makoyedov, the deputy head of Russia's state fishing committee, confirmed. "As of today all Caspian states, except for Iran, stopped commercial fishing of sturgeon under an agreement with the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species [Cites]," he said.

Cites, alarmed by the sturgeon population slide in the Caspian Sea, advised Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to ban commercial fishing, a move that will also combat the poaching industry and illegal sales of the delicacy.

Iran was not included in the Cites recommendation because it maintains tough state regulation on caviar production and sales.

Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan have said they would join the moratorium, though neither of the two countries has so far made formal statements on enforcing it. Turkmenistan has not officially reacted.

At least one of six sturgeon species native to the Caspian – the dark-coloured beluga – is on the verge of extinction, with officials fearing it no longer breeds outside fish farms.

The desperate shortage of sturgeon can be traced to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Until then, Moscow held sturgeon fishing and the caviar trade under tight control, investing heavily in maintaining fish stocks in the Caspian, which yields 90 per cent of the world's caviar. (Reuters)

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