From: UN Environment Programme
Published October 8, 2004 10:24 AM

CITES authorizes 2004 Export Quotas for Caspian Sea Caviar

Bangkok, 8 October 2004 The Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has announced today the 2004 export quotas for Caspian Sea sturgeon.

The approval follows an agreement by the five Caspian Sea States on a new approach to managing sturgeon stocks and the caviar trade that gives the Caspian States an economic incentive to reduce illegal harvesting, to promote sustainable fisheries management and to provide much-needed stability for the caviar industry.

Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan have agreed to reduce their caviar export quotas significantly for this year. Their combined 2004 export quota for caviar from beluga, the rarest and most valuable of all sturgeon, is 50% of the 2003 level. The quota for stellate sturgeon has been reduced by 40% compared to 2003. The levels of caviar from Russian and Persian sturgeon have been cut by 10%. These will now be considered the new base levels for discussions on quotas for future years.

"The Caspian States have agreed to reduce substantially their caviar exports this year. They have achieved these reductions through adjustments to the total harvest of sturgeons and through an increase in the amount of harvested sturgeons devoted to hatchery conservation programs," said Dr. Jim Armstrong, CITES Deputy Secretary General.

"The new approach agreed here gives the governments a strong economic stake in tackling illegal fishing. As the illegal trade declines, legal exports, and thus government earnings, will rise accordingly in future years," he said.

In addition to committing themselves to tackling illegal catch and trade, the range States have agreed to finalize future quotas by the beginning of each trading year. This will offer greater certainty and stability to both the fishing and caviar industries as they make their business plans. The governments have also agreed to place a higher percentage of legally harvested sturgeon fish into hatcheries each year as an added conservation measure.

CITES responded to high levels of poaching and illegal trade in the Caspian Sea, which accounts for some 90% of world caviar, by calling on the Range States to take stronger action. The trade in Caspian Sea caviar was halted for a period in 2001. Extensive discussions and stronger actions by the range states were required before the 2002 and 2003 quotas could be agreed.

Today's announcement was made in the margins of a two-week CITES conference being held in Bangkok, Thailand. The conference is also considering a proposed revision of Resolution Conf. 12.7 (see Introduced by the CITES Secretariat, this resolution would, if agreed next week, apply this same new approach combining a strengthening of conservation measures with tighter regulations to combat illegal markets to all the major sturgeon-producing basins, including the Black Sea, the Azov Sea and the Amur River.

The CITES Secretariat is administered by UNEP, the UN Environment Programme.

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