UNbacked treaty puts caviar export quotas on hold pending new data

The United Nations-backed body that oversees a global treaty governing trade in endangered species announced today that it will not approve the 2006 export quotas for caviar and other sturgeon products until the exporting countries provide more data on the long-term survival of their sturgeon catch.The Geneva-based Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is concerned that the proposed quota levels – though lower than previous years – may not fully reflect declines in sturgeon stocks or fish caught illegally.“Countries wishing to export sturgeon products from shared stocks must demonstrate that their proposed catch and export quotas reflect current population trends and are sustainable,” said CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers. “To do this, they must also make full allowance for the amount of fish caught illegally.”The 169 member countries of CITES have set strict conditions for permitting caviar exports. States that share sturgeon stocks must agree among themselves on catch levels and export quotas based on scientific surveys of the stocks. Information recently provided by the sturgeon-exporting countries bordering the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea/lower Danube River and the Heilongjiang/Amur River on the Sino-Russian border showed that many of the sturgeon species in these shared fishing grounds were suffering serious population declines. Many of the measures adopted by CITES target exporting countries, but importers such as the European Union also have obligations, including buying only from legal sources. Importers are also required to create registration systems for their domestic processing and repackaging plants and rules for the labeling of repackaged caviar. Many key importing countries still do not have these Mr. Wijnstekers said the CITES regime is strong enough to ensure that the trade in sturgeon products is sustainable “but only if its rules are fully applied.” He called on governments to honour their obligations to ensure that the exploitation of sturgeon stocks is commercially and environmentally sustainable over the long-term.

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