WWF: Caviar catastrophe in Europe's black gold-rush – Fishupdate.com

WWF: Caviar catastrophe in Europe’s black gold-rush Published:  15 December, 2005

A THRIVING illegal caviar trade in Britain and Europe is pushing many sturgeon species to the edge of extinction, WWF said today.

Almost 12,000 kg (12 tons) of illegal caviar were seized by European authorities between 2000 and 2005, according to data from the EU and Switzerland.

The country with the biggest appetite for illegal caviar is Germany, which topped the list at 2224 kg, followed by Switzerland (2067 kg), the Netherlands (1920 kg), Poland (1841 kg) and the UK (1587 kg).

Many sturgeon stocks are now seriously depleted as a result of the illegal trade, threatening to make caviar a luxury of the past. Besides the illegal caviar in international trade, considerable volumes of caviar are also consumed in the countries of or

igin, such as the Russian Federation. The majority of this caviar is from illegal sources.

TRAFFIC, WWF and IUCN’s wildlife trade monitoring programme, believes that the true picture is even more bleak, and that delays by Europe’s governments in implementing new laws is compounding the problem. Stephanie Theile, TRAFFIC’s Europe Programme Coordinator said: “We fear that quantities of illegal caviar are much higher than official statistics due to the covert nature of the trade. European governments have been delaying implementation of a universal caviar labelling system which identifies the

origin of the so-called ‘black gold’ – and will help to combat the thriving illegal trade.”

The illegal caviar trade ranges from private individuals selling jars of caviar at open air market stalls to well-organized smuggling operations, with paid couriers picking up suitcases pre-packed with black market roe for delivery to customers.

Investigations by German Customs in March 2005 revealed that two businessmen were responsible for smuggling more than 1.4 tonnes of caviar into the EU market in a single year. A universal labelling system for the trade in and identification of, caviar was introduced within the remit of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and governments all agreed to comply with and implement these requirements by January 2004. But governments in Western Europe have been slow to meet these requirements, making it difficult to distinguish between legal and illegal caviar. A new EU Regulation implementing the caviar labelling system is to come in force in early 2006. Everybody from caviar importers and exporters, to wholesalers and retailers in Europe must be made aware of the new labeling requirements, say WWF and TRAFFIC.

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