Bridges Trade BioRes reports, "BELUGA CAVIAR BACK ON THE MARKET"
The UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has provided export quotas for Beluga caviar, the most precious caviar species, for the year 2007. This move followed the approval of export quotas for most other caviar species in early January (see Bridges Trade BioRes, 19 January 2007, http://www.ictsd.org/biores/07-01-19/inbrief.htm).
The export quota for Beluga caviar, issued to the Caspian range states Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan, is 29 percent lower than it was in 2005. The CITES secretariat issued no quotas for 2006 given that the exporting states had failed to meet requirements concerning the sustainability of the catch of caviar-producing sturgeon (see Bridges Trade BioRes, 20 January 2006, http://www.ictsd.org/biores/06-01-20/inbrief.htm#2).
Commenting on the Beluga quota, CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers said "The Caspian States have stepped up their efforts to control the caviar trade and to release millions of young fish into the sea, but the decline in populations cannot be allowed to continue." He added that the CITES Animals Committee would study the sustainability of the trade at its next meeting.
Speaking on behalf of Caviar Emptor, an initiative to save sturgeon launched by a number of conservation groups, Ellen Pikitch strongly opposed the decision to re-instate Beluga quotas. She said "With beluga sturgeon, we have a species on the brink of extinction that has lost more than 90 percent of its population in recent years. It's a death sentence to allow trade of its precious eggs to resume." She said a long-term trade moratorium was needed to allow the species to recover, and called on industry, restaurants and consumers to boycott the caviar.
In 1998, the 169 CITES member states decided to place all sturgeon species on Appendix II of the Convention, which includes species that Parties have agreed to subject to trade controls in order to ensure their survival. While wild sturgeon populations continue to decline, caviar from farmed varieties is on the increase.
"CITES announces small export quota for beluga caviar," CITES RELEASE, 5 February 2007; "Beluga Caviar Trade Resumed Despite International Objection," CAVIAR EMPTOR RELEASE, 5 February 2007; "UN Lifts Ban on Exports of Beluga Caviar," REUTERS,6 February 2007.