To fish or not to fish
Russia put moratorium on catch of sturgeons. The reason of the implementation of the full ban against the production of black caviar is a disastrous amount of poaching If the process of sturgeon depopulation is not stopped, already in three years this species of fish may totally disappear in the Caspian Sea.
On paper commercial production of black caviar has been prohibited since 2003. But there are still a great number of poachers in the Caspian Region. Thus a week ago police of Kazakhstan seized in the Caspian Sea tree Azerbaijani boats catching surgeons, 10 metric tons of fish were confiscated; but at the same time during the raid the officials noticed over 15 poachering boats.
Russian poachers are not behind the Azerbaijani ones, it amounts to thousands of ships. According to the press service of the Department of the Interior forces of the Astrakhan Region, during the first 5 months of 2007 7,717 metric tons of fish were confiscated, and that’s only a small part of the total poachers’ catch. So, the existed ban didn’t help; if Russian poachers don’t cope with the industrial catch of sturgeons, former nationals can always help them. All that time black caviar was sold almost everywhere.
According to experts, quota of illegal caviar in the Russian market on the whole amounts to 75%, at the same time almost all black caviar is illegal (up to 96%). Main suppliers of black caviar in Moscow are South regions and CIS countries bordering Russia in the South. Security measures concerning black caviar production are similar to those during the state of martial law. Even illegally purchased caviar can be hardly exported. But local officials are said to fraternize often with poachers and caviar traders.
Caviar that is sold now is one that has been confiscated from poachers. It can be realized by the Russian Federal Property Agency and commissioner companies.
The new ban concerns also the confiscated product. August 1 Fishery Law Amendments took effect. According to them, all confiscated production, including black caviar must be abolished. In October 2006 the government approved a draft law that provided abolition of confiscated illicit wildlife by-products or specimens (including sturgeons). Since April 2007 this amendment has come into force. It is designed to prevent legalization of confiscated illicit sturgeons and black caviar.
The bun against black caviar production is imposed not forever, but only for ten years. Since August 1st only sturgeon fish-farming enterprises are allowed to product black caviar, they produce about 2-3 metric tons per year. Besides that small parties of caviar will be permissible for scientific catch.
According to Chairman of the Committee of the Federation Council on Agrarian and Food Policy and Fishing Gennadiy Gorbunov, the restrictive measures are temporary. “Russia can restore its sturgeon population but it will more than one year”.
Wholesale price of a kilogram of black caviar exceeds $1000, retail price can amount to 50000-60000 rubles. It is however still doubtful that purchase of black caviar will be totally stopped. According to Kommersant business daily, legal production of black caviar doesn’t exceed 2-3 tons per year, and 200-300 tons are realized annually. What does it mean? The real volume of the market exceeds legal quota by more than hundred times.
Quite a little caviar in Moscow is absolutely illicit. According to results of research “Analysis of commercial market of caviar: monitoring of pricing and product line policy of wholesalers of the city of Moscow” provided by Symbol-Marketing company in spring 2007, part of unidentified caviar in the Moscow market amounts to 8,7%. The most part of unidentified caviar is beluga caviar, it comes to 40%. Part of unidentified red caviar is 8,1%, part of unidentified asetra caviar is 11,1%.
Bun on production of black caviar will cause a deficit of it, reckons marketing analysts. They even cannot suppose, how much illicit caviar will cost. According to some guess-works, gourmets will have to pay over $10 000 for a kilogram of the delicacy.
In 5the later 70s caviar was a significant part of Soviet export. The USSR supplied the West countrie with more that 2 000 tons of it annually. Now volume of exports has extremely reduced. Russia exports only 1 200 tons of the delicacy, and only 10 tons are legal. About 90% of black caviar appears in stores illegally. A the very t least estimate Russian economy loses $500 mln per year because of illicit realization of fish production. Ruthless poaching caused an extreme decrease of sturgeon population in the Caspian Sea.
There are still problems with export at the moment. In 2006 the Secretary of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) deprived Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan of their quotas for export of sturgeons and black caviar, since the countries had not provided enough information on sturgeon population condition. The countries could catch sturgeons and produce black caviar, but only for home consumption. Already in 2006 countries of the Caspian region reduced their common quota on sturgeon catch by 20%.
Now Russia can export black caviar in the following volume: 700 kg of Beluga, 3,5 tons of Sevruga (Starry sturgeon), 20 tons of Russian sturgeon (Asetra). The quota on Asetra caviar was extended, but such quantity, i.e. 110 tons, is hard to produce. In other words Russia increases export, but de-facto decreases home market. Thus it seems that the key element in the process of sturgeons’ rescue is a conflict between bureaucratic and business interests: who, how many and on what conditions will purchase black caviar. In other words, the Russian Federal Property Agency may lose soon black caviar. Who will get it?
But even if Russians must forget taste of black caviar, it still remains red caviar and, if the worst comes to the worst, mushroom one. However industrial catch of mushrooms can be hardly prohibited.