Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Caviar from the Caspian

Days after the New Year, the United Nations announced that it would lift the ban on caviar harvested from the Caspian Sea. The ban was in place during 2006 because the main exporting countries failed to provide information on fish stocks (check my previous post for more information). New 2007 quotas on the delicacy from sturgeon in the Caspian Sea, where 90 percent of all caviar originates, are 15 percent lower than they were in 2005.

In the early '90s, caviar production fell by over 90 percent, environmentalists estimate, because of over-fishing. In 2001, the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) began monitoring the fish stocks.

Despite the monitoring, sturgeon numbers are still declining. The Secretary-General of CITES, Willem Wijnstekers, admitted so much in a press release:
Ensuring that sturgeon stocks recover to safe levels will take decades of careful fisheries management and an unrelenting struggle against poaching and illegal trade. The income earned from the sale of sturgeon products in 2007 should provide both an incentive and the means to pursue the long-term recovery of this commercially and ecologically valuable natural resource.

The group put off the decision to lift the ban on the more expensive beluga caviar until next month so it can have more time to collect information. If they decide to remove that ban as well, there will be at least one definitive consequence--fewer baby belugas in the deep blue sea.

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