Russia faces world ban on caviar exports

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The Independent Online

The world trade in caviar could be banned at the end of this year if Russia, Iran and the other Caspian Sea states cannot agree on a common fisheries policy for sturgeon, the fish that produces it.

The world trade in caviar could be banned at the end of this year if Russia, Iran and the other Caspian Sea states cannot agree on a common fisheries policy for sturgeon, the fish that produces it.

Member states, including Britain, of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) are so concerned about the overexploitation of sturgeon stocks that they have given the caviar-exporting countries until 31 December to agree joint quotas for the Caspian catch, or face an international trade ban.

It is feared that the booming illegal trade, led by the Russian mafia, is driving sturgeon stocks towards commercial extinction.

Caviar is the salted roe of several sturgeon species, most from the Caspian Sea.

The declining sturgeon numbers in the inland sea led Cites to introduce limited controls on caviar for the first time two years ago. But in the past 18 months the price of some has tripled from £1,000 to £3,000 per kilogram. This has led to increasing smuggling around the world and illicit caviar is turning up in Britain for the first time in large quantities.

Michael Meacher, an environment minister, said yesterday that he thought the overexploitation of sturgeon was a significant and growing problem. "There is no doubt that the fish, which have to be killed so that the eggs can be taken, are increasingly being put at risk," he said. "The numbers of sturgeon in the Caspian Sea in Russia and Iran have been plummeting and we do need tough action.

"If they don't come up with an appropriate restriction on that trade then it is proposed that there should be a zero quota."

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