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Caviar trade is banned

19 January 2006

CITES, the United Nation's Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species has banned the trade in caviar and all products of the wild sturgeon, from which caviar is obtained.

Caviar is made from the unfertilised fish eggs, or roe, of the sturgeon (Acipenser ) and the closely related beluga (Huso ) and is one of the most expensive foods in the world.

The large illegal and legal trade in caviar has had a devastating effect on the numbers of sturgeon in the wild.

CITES is enforcing the ban this year because predicted fish catch for next year will not be sustainable.

The countries that export caviar will have to provide more information on how they will improve the sustainability of their sturgeon catch for the future. Farmed caviar will not be banned.

Caspian Sea producers

Some of the biggest producers of caviar are Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan - countries surrounding the Caspian Sea. Other producers are those surrounding the Black Sea eg Romania. The USA is also a large producer.

Over 25 species of sturgeon

The sturgeons (Acipenseridae ) are a family, or grouping, of bottom-feeding fish that has existed for 300 million years. There are more than 25 species of sturgeon and all are threatened with extinction because of pollution of breeding grounds and mismanagement of fisheries.

Sturgeon spend most of their time in the seas but swim up river to breed. They range from 2.5 to 3.5 metres in length but some are capable of growing much larger. A female sturgeon can carry a large amount of her body weight as eggs - some have been known to carry as much as 25 per cent.