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U.N. Blocks Caviar Trade Pending Data on Sturgeon

January 04, 2006|From Associated Press

GENEVA — The United Nations on Tuesday all but blocked caviar exports until the producing country could provide more information about the sustainability of its sturgeon catch.

Many sturgeon species are suffering "serious population declines" and new quotas proposed by exporting countries might not fully reflect the stock reductions or make allowances for illegal fishing, said the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, which regulates legal caviar exports through an international system of permits.

Information recently provided by sturgeon-exporting countries bordering the Caspian and Black seas, as well as the lower Danube River in Europe and the Heilongjiang-Amur River on the Chinese-Russian border, indicates that stocks are falling rapidly, CITES said.

The agency "remains hopeful" that the exporting countries will supply the missing data, which may allow international trade to resume.

But because the CITES system only allows sturgeon products to be exported during the year in which they are harvested, it is not possible to export caviar and other sturgeon products from shared stocks until the body approves new 2006 quotas.

Although CITES imposes annual quotas on caviar exports -- some 250,000 pounds in 2004, down from 320,000 pounds in 2003 -- environmentalists say that has not prevented the sturgeon's decline.

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