CITES Sets Lower 2004 Export Quota For Caviar
BANGKOK Caviar lovers are in for a jolt. The 2004 Caspian Sea export quotas have been cut, a move almost certain to drive up the price of the coveted luxury food, the salted roe or eggs of the sturgeon.
"The Caspian states have agreed to reduce substantially their caviar exports this year," said Jim Armstrong, deputy secretary general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Russia agreed to cut their combined 2004 Caspian caviar quotas from 146,210 kg (322,300 pounds) in 2003 to 113,554 kg (250,200 pounds).
Their combined export quota for caviar from beluga, the rarest and most valuable of all sturgeon, was slashed by 50 percent to 4,425 kg (9,755 pounds).
The Caspian produces 90 percent of the world's supply of caviar, but years of poaching and pollution have ravaged stocks of the long-snouted boneless fish and forced lower quotas.
The announcement was made in Bangkok during a two-week CITES conference on regulating global trade in plants and animals and their parts.
The export quotas are set late in the year ahead of the Christmas season, by far the busiest time for caviar dealers.
Armstrong said no legal exports could be made in a calendar year before the quota is set.
The size of the illegal harvest is not known, but is believed to be substantial, and CITES officials say it involves organized crime networks.
Caviar is adored by devotees with deep pockets who enjoy it with bread and butter, washed down with vodka or champagne.