Officials delay trade restrictions on Caspian Sea caviar

Conservation groups say CITES action falls short of protecting sturgeon populations

PARIS Today, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) agreed to an action plan that makes progress toward improved management and enforcement of depleted Caspian Sea sturgeon fisheries and places a temporary suspension on sturgeon catches through the end of 2001. However, CITES rejected the recommendations of scientists and conservation organizations to impose significant long-term reductions in caviar exports that are needed to help save dwindling populations of sturgeon, source of the majority of the worlds caviar.

"Todays decision falls short of what is needed to protect severely threatened Caspian Sea sturgeon," said Lisa Speer, Senior Policy Analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, who was a presenter to the CITES meeting in Paris earlier this week. "While the measures adopted today represent an important step forward, they will not by themselves be sufficient to stop the downward spiral of beluga sturgeon toward extinction."

Overfishing and illegal trade to supply the global caviar market, along with habitat loss and pollution, have decimated sturgeon populations around the world. Among the most significantly affected are sturgeon of the Caspian Sea. Beluga sturgeon, the source of beluga caviar, has declined more than 90 percent in the past twenty years, and is approaching extinction. It is widely believed that beluga sturgeon no longer reproduce in the wild.

Caviar Emptor, a program of leading conservation organizations Natural Resources Defense Council, Wildlife Conservation Society and SeaWeb, has recommended a halt to the international trade of beluga caviar as a key to ensuring the survival of beluga sturgeon. The groups also support the long-term reduction of export quotas for other Caspian Sea sturgeon, and international funding for stock assessments and improved management and enf

Contact: Shannon Crownover

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