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New CITES quotas allow more caviar export, further jeopardize endangered sturgeon
Date:5/30/2008

In a decision that could jeopardize already imperiled sturgeons, more caviar will be exported from Caspian Sea and Amur River states this year as a result of unacceptably permissive new trade quotas announced Thursday by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Most sturgeon species are endangered and some, like beluga sturgeon, are threatened with extinction. These quotas will further damage this ancient fish's chance of recovery and survival, since sturgeon must be killed to harvest their prized eggs which are then processed into caviar.

"The latest quotas announced by CITES further jeopardize these severely at-risk fish," said Dr. Ellen Pikitch, Executive Director of the Pew Institute for Ocean Science, a leader in the effort to safeguard sturgeon. "Sturgeon have been on earth since the time of the dinosaurs, but are being wiped out because of inadequate international and domestic controls. We urge consumers to protest with their wallets by not purchasing any wild-caught caviar."

The United States banned import of beluga caviar in 2005 after listing beluga sturgeon under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, but import of caviar from other sturgeon species in accordance with international regulations is allowed.

The new CITES caviar trade quotas revise those that CITES announced in February for the Caspian Sea and Amur River. The quotas further allow export of caviar from farm-raised sturgeon, with China exporting the most farm-raised caviar of any exporting nations for the first time ever. In 2008, China will export 9,400 kg of aquaculture-derived caviar, compared to 0 kg in 2007 and 1,000 kg in 2006.

While aquaculture can be a positive development if it leads to reduced fishing of wild sturgeon, a Pew Institute analysis suggests that wild catches are not decreasing as more farm-grown caviar is produced. It is impossible to tell farm-raised and wild-based caviar apart at this point, which gives an a
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Contact: Kathryn Cervino
kcervino@miami.edu
917-612-0235
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
Source:Eurekalert

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