United Nations

Published: Monday 15 April 2002

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently announced the launching of a coordinated plan for surveying and managing sturgeon stocks by Caspian Sea countries. The programme will pave the way for a resumption of the US $100-million caviar industry.

"For the first time, the Caspian Sea's wild sturgeon populations are being managed through a unified system rather than through competing national systems," said Willem Wijnstekers, secretary-general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES), an international treaty that is administered in Geneva by UNEP.

The resumption in caviar sales will bring in much needed funding so that the hatcheries vital to the sturgeons' long-term survival can be expanded, stated Wijnstekers. However, he cautioned that the crisis was not over and greater efforts were needed to combat illegal fishing and corruption. The legal caviar trade has been estimated at US $100 million annually.

CITES halted the caviar trade by Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation in June 2001 and gave the four countries until the end of the year to conduct a scientific survey of stocks and develop a common management plan. They now have to establish a long-term survey programme by June 20, 2002 and to significantly increase their efforts to combat illegal harvesting and trade, at the same time regulating domestic trade.

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