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Sturgeon Poachers Pose Threat To World’s Supply Of Caviar

Sun., March 29, 1998

Champagne wishes and caviar nightmares?

In news that could keep Robin Leach awake nights, the government and environmentalists said Wednesday that the world’s supply of caviar was threatened by poachers who were purging the sturgeon from Russia’s Caspian Sea and other breeding grounds.

“If we don’t save the sturgeon now, there won’t be any caviar for future generations to enjoy,” warned Rappaport Clark, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The service touted a new international rule designed to protect the fish, and even unveiled a catchy slogan for its save the roe campaign: “It’s delicious. It’s delectable. It’s disappearing.”

But as environmentalists point out, this is not about denying the yet-unborn children of the rich and famous their birthright of the $50 per ounce seafood delight. This is about protecting a creature that dates back 250 million years and has seen its Caspian Sea population drop 70 percent - from 142 million adults in 1978 to 43.5 million in 1994.

Environmentalists blame indiscriminate poachers who often snatch young sturgeon that are non-caviar producing. Sturgeon, which live up to 150 years, can reach sexual maturity as late as age 25.

Experts estimate half of the trade in Caspian Sea caviar - considered the best in the world - is illegally obtained. Often, this premium caviar is then mixed with inferior quality roe to create a lesser product at an inflated price.


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