Database launched to track caviar trade

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Database launched to track caviar trade

Geneva, 30 November 2007 – In an effort to better monitor the origin of caviar in international markets and tackle illegal catch and trade, the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) will launch today a computerized database that will track shipments of caviar around the world.

The database will record details of all permits and certificates that authorize trade in caviar. It will help detect and deter fraudulent applications to trade in caviar. It will also enable national CITES authorities to check the history of caviar shipments to confirm that their original export was lawful and the quantities and caviar types that were authorized for trade.

In the past, considerable ‘laundering’ of illegal-origin caviar occurred when unscrupulous traders obtained genuine CITES documents by making false statements about where the caviar had been obtained. The new database will allow authorities to identify when such fraudulent applications are made. This initiative backs up a labelling system that requires all containers of caviar to have a label with details of its origin and production.
As stocks of wild sturgeons, the fish whose eggs are processed into caviar, have declined in recent years, legal exports of these species have fallen. In the meantime, the CITES Secretariat continues to receive frequent evidence of illegal caviar trade, including in beluga, the world’s most valuable caviar.

Welcoming the introduction of the new database, Willem Wijnstekers, Secretary-General of CITES, said. “This is an important tool in our battle to save sturgeons and fight criminals who seek to overexploit a number of species of great conservation concern. Sturgeons have existed since prehistoric times and we all need to ensure that the demand for the luxury product of caviar does not threaten their survival in the wild. I encourage all caviar trading countries to make full use of the database.”

The database was funded by the European Commission and developed and maintained by UNEP-WCMC at its offices in Cambridge, United Kingdom, on behalf of the CITES Secretariat. UNEP-WCMC is a collaboration between the United Nations Environment Programme, the world's foremost intergovernmental environmental organization, and WCMC 2000, a UK-based charity.

For more information: Contact Juan-Carlos Vasquez at +41-22-917-8156/28 or or John Sellar at +41-22-917-8293 or or John Caldwell +44-(0)1223-277314 Extn. 249 or [email protected] See also and


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