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Caspian states committed to conserving caviar-bearing sturgeon – UN report

Caspian states committed to conserving caviar-bearing sturgeon – UN report

A United Nations-administered body protecting endangered species today praised efforts by the nations of the Caspian Sea region to conserve its sturgeon, source of the world’s most prized caviar, from over-fishing and poaching.

“After a decade that saw the collapse of sturgeon stocks due to over-fishing, the Governments in the Caspian Sea region are now fully committed to enforcing CITES regulations,” the Deputy Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Jim Armstrong, said.

“As a result of their joint efforts to monitor and manage fish stocks and combat poaching, they are truly starting to turn the situation around,” he added.

CITES, which is administered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), halted the caviar trade by Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Russia in June 2001 under the so-called Paris Agreement, giving them until the end of that year to conduct a scientific survey of stocks and to start developing a common management plan.

The fifth Caspian state, Iran, was not subject to the caviar ban, but, commendably, it too joined the regional effort, CITES said in a press release today announcing approved quotas for Caspian Sea sturgeon catch and caviar exports in 2003. The export quota for caviar total 146,760 kilos, compared with 142,237 kilos for last year.

The approved quotas are based on information submitted by the Caspian States and on CITES missions to the region to verify survey results. In developing the new quotas, the Caspian States paid particular attention to Beluga, which produces the most valuable caviar.

Beluga stocks appear to be recovering, greater numbers of fish are spawning and a higher proportion of the fish being caught are going into hatchery production rather than into commercial caviar production, CITES noted, adding that it was pleased with the slightly lower total catch and caviar export quotas assigned for this species in 2003.

This should give Beluga stocks more time to build up – Beluga take 11 to 17 years to mature. By sacrificing some immediate income, the region’s governments have demonstrated their commitment to making the Beluga fishery sustainable over the long term, CITES said.