Australia bans caviar

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THE caviar lifestyle is over for Australia following its decision last month to ban all imports of the delicacy, writes Andrew Tuck.

The move also means that first-class passengers on Qantas, the Australian airline, are having to get by on alternatives such as rare white truffles.

The government in Canberra decided to wean its people off the valuable sturgeon roe after several species of the fish were included on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) "most endangered" list.

Caviar comes from the Caspian Sea. Since the collapse of the USSR, the caviar trade has fallen into the hands of the mafia, poaching is rife and all restocking programmes have come to an end.

Tom de Meulenaer at the Worldwide Fund for Nature's headquarters in Brussels, said that no other nation had followed Australia's decision to say "No" to caviar.

"The Australians have domestic legislations which means that you are only allowed to import exotic wildlife if it comes from a properly and scientifically managed source. They decided that the Caspian isn't."

However, Australians who believe they are suffering to help protect the sturgeon get no backing from de Meulenaer: "the people who live along the shores of the Caspian Sea need the income, they are extremely poor because all other industries have collapsed. This business has survived for centuries and can go on for many more as long as it is properly regulated."

Since 1 April, international trade in caviar has been covered by tough trade permits. Tourists buying caviar for themselves are restricted to 400g per person, if taking it across an international border.