Russia seizes contraband caviar Published: 26 September, 2007
Sturgeon stocks have been severely cut
RUSSIAN police seized almost half a tonne of contraband caviar worth an estimated $600,000 as it was being smuggled through a military airfield in black rubbish bags, the interior ministry has said.
Following a tip-off, police intercepted the 460 kg (1,1014 lb) of caviar at Chkalovsky airfield near Moscow, where it was flown from Khabarovsk in Russia’s Far East, said Yuri Sinyutin, a spokesman for the ministry’s economic safety department.
“In order to get this much black caviar, poachers caught and destroyed over 23 tonnes of sturgeon, themselves worth around 10 million roubles ($400,000),” Sinyutin told Reuters.
Russian television pictures showed the caviar stored in metal and plastic buckets wrapped in rubbish bags. Sinyutin said it was transported without proper documents, stored in unsanitary conditions, and came from illegally-caught fish.
Overfishing, poaching, pollution, poor management and corrupt law enforcement have cut sturgeon stocks so severely that experts say the beluga species is on the verge of extinction after falling 90 percent in the past 20 years.
Beluga caviar, a symbol of ostentatious wealth and dining luxury, costs about $1,800 for 1 kg in Moscow markets, versus 3,700 British pounds ($7,499) in London.
Russia’s first Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, a leading contender for president in 2008, last Friday spoke favourably for a sturgeon fishing ban. He said he could live without the delicacy if a ban helped replenish stocks.
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