(Thursday, March 7, 2002) Yesterdays announcement by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) that the Caspian Sea states could resume the caviar trade has been met with alarm by scientists and conservation organizations seeking to restore the beluga sturgeon, which is on the brink of extinction.
The decision to allow continued trade in beluga caviar will take the remarkable, yet critically imperiled beluga sturgeon one step closer to oblivion, said Dr. Ellen Pikitch, Director of Marine Programs for the Wildlife Conservation Society. Beluga sturgeon simply cannot support any fishing or trade, now or in the foreseeable future.
Citing the fishs 20-year downward spiral and recently released scientific research findings that further document the perilous state of beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea, the three conservation groups of the Caviar Emptor campaign have reiterated their call for an immediate and sustained halt in international trade of beluga caviar.
The Caviar Emptor partners Wildlife Conservation Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, and SeaWeb will urge CITES officials to reconsider their approval of a resumption in beluga caviar trade at its policy-making committee meeting in Geneva next week. Export quotas for caviar of several Caspian Sea sturgeon species were announced yesterday by CITES, with overall Caspian beluga caviar exports reduced by a small fraction from the previous year.
The trade reductions announced this week are too little, too late for beluga sturgeon, said Lisa Speer, Senior Policy Analyst of the Natural Resources Defense Council. The decision to resume the beluga caviar trade is another nail in the coffin for this fish.