GENEVA – A U.N. panel ordered a temporary halt to caviar exports by the world’s major producers Tuesday, buying time for experts to find ways to reverse dwindling populations of threatened sturgeon – whose eggs provide the culinary delicacy.
Many sturgeon species are suffering “serious population declines,” said the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES.
Information from sturgeon-exporting countries bordering the Caspian and Black seas, as well as the lower Danube and Heilongjiang-Amur rivers on the Chinese-Russian border, indicates stocks are falling rapidly, CITES said.
Major caviar exporters include Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Iran, which are all on the Caspian Sea; Bulgaria and Romania, which border the Black Sea; along with Russia. China is also a caviar exporter.
The ban covers exports from the major sturgeon-exporting countries, said CITES, which regulates legal caviar exports through an international system of permits.
The Caspian Sea produces the sturgeons said to be the world’s highest quality. The countries bordering the Caspian Sea account for 80 percent of the global caviar trade.
The U.N. body said the restrictions on world caviar trade were temporary to permit exporting nations to show they are not driving the species to extinction and are taking steps to preserve the source of the delicacy.
Countries wishing to export sturgeon products “must demonstrate that their proposed catch and export quotas reflect current population trends and are sustainable,” said Willem Wijnstekers, secretary-general of CITES.
“Governments need to fully implement the measures that they have agreed to ensure that the exploitation of sturgeon stocks is commercially and environmentally sustainable over the long term,” Wijnstekers added.