Thursday, July 06, 2006

Caviar Can Still Taste As Sweet

Ever since most of the countries that harvest wild sturgeon caviar were banned by the UN from exporting the delicacy earlier this year, complaints have been heard around the world, but now that farmed sturgeon caviar is a thriving industry, people may start to taste the benefits of a sustainable harvest.

The branch of the UN that oversees the export of products from endangered species, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES), put a ban on the export of wild sturgeon caviar last April. The ban was instated after most of the countries that export the product failed to supply information that showed that the wild industry is sustainable. The only country to escape the ban was Iran, which is allowed to export caviar from wild sturgeon in the Caspian Sea.

Wild sturgeon “stocks have dwindled to dangerously low levels” because of over-fishing and illegal poaching, according to a press release issued by the UN in April.

A meeting held last month focused on eliminating the illegal trade of caviar. Importing and exporting country representatives met to identify solutions to illegal trade. As of July 9th, a new European Union (EU) regulation requires all caviar containers to have a label with information about the product, and all producers and processors in the EU will have to be registered.

Since the ban, sturgeon farms in California, which were not very successful when wild caviar was exported, have become lucrative. According to an article published by the New York Times, California sturgeon farms have seen a significant increase in profits in the past two years. One of the largest fish farming companies, Tsar Nicoulai, says that it has doubled its profits over the past two years.

Although experts say they can taste the difference between the wild and the farmed fish eggs, the benefits of having fish that will continuously provide such a valued product may outweigh the demands of the few people with the most sophisticated palates.

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