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Following 2006 ban, CITES authorizes 2007 quotas for
all Caspian Sea caviar except beluga
Geneva, 2 January 2007 – The Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has today published the export quotas for caviar and other sturgeon products from the Caspian for 2007.
The publication of 2007 quotas contrasts with the situation in 2006, when the Secretariat did not publish caviar quotas for the Caspian Sea’s sturgeon fisheries because the five States concerned – Azerbaijan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan – did not provide sufficient information about the sustainability of their sturgeon catch.
Recognizing that sturgeon stocks have declined in recent years, the States bordering the Caspian Sea agreed amongst themselves to reduce the combined catch quotas for the Sea’s six sturgeon species by an average of 20 % compared with 2005, with reductions of one third for some
In line with these reductions, the combined quotas for caviar exports are 15 % lower than for 2005, the last year for which quotas were published. Quotas for caviar exports from Persian and stellate sturgeon have been reduced by over 25 %, while quotas for caviar from Russian sturgeon have risen by 23 % (see the table).
The fact that the catch quotas have been reduced more than the caviar quotas is largely due to the decision by the Russian Federation to use fewer of the fish it catches for restocking hatcheries and a higher percentage for caviar exports.
It has not been possible to publish quotas for beluga, the world’s most valuable caviar, because the information provided by the five range States is not yet complete. Tasked by the CITES member states with ensuring that all required criteria and procedures for publishing sturgeon and caviar quotas have been met, the Secretariat has granted the range States an additional month to provide the missing information before a final decision is made.
“The decision taken by CITES last year not to publish caviar quotas has undoubtedly helped to spur improvements to the monitoring programmes and scientific assessments carried out jointly by the five Caspian neighbours”, said CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers.
“However, 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,” he added.
Meanwhile, recognizing that sturgeon stocks in the Black Sea/lower Danube River have been seriously depleted, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine have requested zero quotas for 2007. While Serbia requested a small quota for Beluga caviar exports, no quota has been published owing to a lack of agreement amongst the range States.
In the case of the Heilongjiang/Amur River on the Sino-Russian border, a fishery shared by China and the Russian Federation, the Secretariat is seeking further clarification of information submitted by the States concerned and has not been able to publish a quota at this stage.
Mr. Wijnstekers added, "Although many of the measures adopted by CITES are aimed at exporting countries, importers also have important obligations. They must ensure that all imports are from legal sources, and they must establish registration systems for their domestic processing and repackaging plants and rules for the labelling of repackaged caviar".
As caviar stocks continued to decline through the 1990s, the Parties to CITES decided to place all sturgeon species that remained unlisted on its Appendix II as of 1 April 1998. Since then, all exports of caviar and other sturgeon products have had to comply with strict CITES provisions,
including the use of permits and specific labelling requirements.
In 2001, CITES responded to high levels of poaching and illegal trade in the Caspian Sea by agreeing to a temporary ban. Extensive discussions and stronger actions by the range States were required before the annual quotas could be agreed for 2002 to 2005. The Secretariat was unable to publish quotas for 2006.
With the agreement of the sturgeon range States, the rules on how to set quotas under CITES have become increasingly rigorous. To have their proposed quotas published, countries with shared sturgeon stocks must agree amongst themselves on catch and export quotas based on scientific surveys of the stocks. They must also adopt a regional conservation strategy, combat illegal fishing and demonstrate that their proposed catch and export quotas reflect current population trends and are sustainable.
The CITES regime requires caviar and other sturgeon products to be sold during the same calendar year in which the fish are caught. Because caviar is also a popular local delicacy in many of these countries, they must also focus on strengthening their controls over domestic trade in sturgeon.
Reduced supplies of caviar from the wild have encouraged many countries to establish aquaculture facilities for sturgeon, but in order to preserve incentives for the conservation of wild sturgeon stocks it is important to maintain a catch of these fish at sustainable levels.
The CITES Secretariat is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme.
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