Officials delay trade restrictions on Caspian Sea caviar

orcement practices.

Earlier this year, the scientific arm of CITES recommended an 80 percent reduction in Caspian export quotas to protect the fish, along with enhanced management and enforcement of the regions sturgeon fisheries. Todays CITES decision addresses only management and enforcement issues.

"Because CITES has given no direction on sturgeon catch limits beyond the end of this year, the fate of Caspian sturgeon remains uncertain," said Dr. Ellen Pikitch, Director of Marine Programs of the Wildlife Conservation Society. "There are no quick fixes that could remedy this dire situation. Beluga sturgeon require 15 years to reach sexual maturity and can live for over 100 years, so this fish needs long-term protection if it is to recover."

NRDC, WCS and SeaWeb have reiterated their plans to seek an Appendix I listing for beluga sturgeon, which under CITES guidelines would effectively place an international trade ban on beluga caviar. In addition, the three groups are calling on consumers worldwide to avoid beluga caviar and to reduce their consumption of other Caspian Sea caviars during this crisis. If consumers do buy caviar, better choices include environmentally sound farmed varieties.

"It is more important now than ever for consumers to know that it is in bad taste to eat the eggs of the endangered beluga sturgeon, which is an ancient fish that has survived since the time of dinosaurs," said Vikki Spruill, Executive Director of SeaWeb. "Consumers can help the fish survive for many years to come by choosing other good-tasting varieties that are better for the environment."

NRDC, WCS and SeaWeb launched Caviar Emptor in December 2000 to seek a halt to international trade in beluga sturgeon; to call for greater international funding for efforts to protect and restore Caspian Sea sturgeon; and to point consumers to preferred environmentally friendly caviar alternatives.


Contact: Shannon Crownover

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