Wildlife officials to consider ban on caviar exports from major Caspian Sea nations

Conservation groups support trade ban as a key to survival for endangered beluga sturgeon

Caspian Sea sturgeon whose eggs produce coveted beluga, sevruga and osetra caviar are in sharp decline, and beluga sturgeon is on the brink of extinction. The regions principal caviar exporting nations including the Russian Federation, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan have been asked by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to slash their caviar exports by 80 percent to protect remaining sturgeon populations. If the nations do not agree to reduce quotas and adopt other measures to improve management and enforcement, CITES could enact a ban on exports at its policy-making committee meeting next week in Paris.

Of the most concern is beluga sturgeon, whose population in the Caspian Sea has plunged by more than 90 percent in the past 20 years. Leading conservation organizations say a halt to the international trade of beluga caviar is a key to the survival of this endangered species.

"We strongly support the CITES recommendations, but for beluga, they are too little, too late," said Lisa Speer, senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which, with SeaWeb and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), founded the Caviar Emptor program. "If this prehistoric fish is to survive, the international trade in beluga caviar must be stopped. A trade ban would help reduce the pressure on this species and provide fishing nations with the time to implement important conservation measures."

The global caviar market has placed a premium on sturgeon, prompting overfishing and illegal trade amidst other major threats to the species, which include habitat loss and pollution. Demand for the delicacy is highest in the European Union, Switzerland, the United States and Japan, which together account for 95 percent of the worlds total caviar imports.

"It will take a long-term, global c

Contact: Shannon Crownover

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