U.N. Lifts Ban on Caviar Exports from Caspian
GENEVA -- The United Nations on Tuesday lifted a year-old embargo on exports of most types of caviar from the Caspian Sea, the main source of the delicacy, despite the fact that stocks are continuing to decline.
Exports of caviar, which can sell for as much as $9,500 a kilo, were banned in 2006 because the main producers -- Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan -- failed to meet requirements, such as providing stock levels. The U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) said it authorised the sale of nearly 96 tonnes of caviar in 2007, some 15 percent below the quotas handed out in 2005.
CITES said that the five producer states had agreed amongst themselves to cut the combined catch quotas for sturgeon, whose eggs make caviar, by 20 percent from 2005 levels, with some species seeing a fall of over 30 percent.
"Ensuring that sturgeon stocks recover to safe levels will take decades of careful fisheries management and an unrelenting struggle against poaching and illegal trade," CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers said in a statement.
"The decision taken by CITES last year not to publish caviar quotas has undoubtedly helped to spur improvements to the monitoring programmes and scientific assessments," he added.
Industry officials put the illegal trade at around 100 tonnes a year, roughly the same as the legal market.
A decision on whether to lift a ban on beluga, the most expensive caviar, was put off for a further month to give producers more time to provide the needed information on stocks and other issues, CITES said.
Environmentalists estimate that caviar stocks plunged over 90 percent in the early 1990s because of over-fishing. CITES has been regulating trade since 2001.
Some 90 percent of the world's caviar comes from the Caspian Sea.
Exports from other areas, such as the Black Sea and Danube River fisheries and the Heilongjiang/Amur River on the Sino-Russian border remained barred either at the producers' request or because states have not yet provide the needed information, CITES said.