Black caviar export from Iran diminishes

Exports of black sturgeon caviar from Iran in 2003 decreased, Mohammad Reza Hoseini, executive director of Iran's state company Shilat, reported on Tuesday.

"Last year Iran exported only 65 tons of caviar worth 35 million euros, which is less than planned," Hoseini said.

Experts believe that the main reasons for lower catch of sturgeons and falling black caviar exports are poaching, which has become organized crime, and a deteriorating environmental situation in the Caspian Sea.

At present black caviar in Iran costs astronomic sums and is almost impossible to buy. One kilogram of caviar on the international market costs up to $750. Iranian caviar is considered the biggest specialty, because near its cost the main breeding grounds of great sturgeons are situated. Large-grain light caviar of these fish is especially valued by experts and lovers of "fish eggs", as caviar is called in Iran.

Five Caspian states are the main suppliers of black caviar to international markets.

Exports of sturgeons and caviar is carried out in compliance with quotas set by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The organization seeks to control the population of endangered species of sturgeons.

Export quotas for black caviar equal 75,700 kg for Iran, 31,300 kg for Russia, 25,000 kg for Kazakhstan, 4,500 kg for Azerbaijan and 3,600 for Turkmenistan.

The problem of poaching and marauding extermination of biological resources of the unique sea has become very acute in all littoral states, including Russia. Experts maintain that up to 90% of black caviar sold in the Russian capital has been produced illegally.

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