Caviar Crisis Spurs Caspian Sea Summit

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Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan were urged to substantially reduce their requested quotas for 2001.

They were also strongly encouraged to implement other reforms, such as conducting science-based assessments of sturgeon population levels (with support from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization), strengthening controls over domestic trade in sturgeon, and improving oversight of hatchery production.

The CITES committee called for banning caviar exports from the four countries until their governments have reported progress in implementing measures aimed at reviving sturgeon stocks and controlling caviar exports. A decision on whether they have complied adequately will be made by the Standing Committee of CITES when it meets next week in Paris.

As a result of the stricter controls, illegal caviar exports to Europe have dropped dramatically. Yet domestic markets continue to be a major outlet for illegal catches.

CITES is also pressing Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine to reduce or ban caviar exports until they have improved their own monitoring and trade systems.

Update from UNEP (6/21/01): Key caviar-producing States have agreed to halt sturgeon fishing in the Caspian Sea for the rest of the year.

Under the agreement, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation have until July 20 to provide the CITES with a detailed inventory of the caviar now in storage from the spring 2001 harvest. Only this caviar may be sold.

The agreement gives the Caspian States until the end of 2001 to survey sturgeon stocks, ask Interpol to analyze the illegal sturgeon trade, call for a study of enforcement needs for combating illegal harvesting and trade, and permit and facilitate inspections by CITES of their sturgeon management activities.

They must also agree by this date on the coordinated management of the Caspian sturgeon resources, including the joint settling of catch and export quotas for 2002.

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