Report Claims One-Fifth of Caviar and Meat Sold in Key Markets Illegal
A survey by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has revealed that the trade of caviar and sturgeon-based products in four key European countries continues to be plagued by illegal trading
A survey by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has revealed that the trade of caviar and sturgeon-based products in four key European countries continues to be plagued by illegal trading, hindering the recovery of seven of eight species of sturgeon in Eastern Europe that are on the brink of extinction.
WWF conducted a market survey within the European Union-funded LIFE project and published a resulting paper, “Sustainable Protection of Lower Danube Sturgeons by Preventing and Counteracting Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade,” laying out its findings. The research covered Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine – countries where sturgeon breed in the Lower Danube River and the northwestern Black Sea region. The Danube, along with the Rioni River in Georgia’s Caucasus, is one of two remaining rivers where migrating sturgeons reproduce naturally.
The survey used samples from various parts of the supply chain – aquaculture farms, shops, restaurants, local markets, and reports by governments on poaching and illegal fishing activities.
Two research methods were applied to identify the origin of the product samples: isotope analysis and DNA testing. The combination of both methods, a unique feature of the research, helped researchers understand how a sample was produced – caught in the wild or farmed – providing a high degree of certainty to the researchers’ conclusions.
The tests showed that wild sturgeon products were being sold in all four countries studied. In total, 145 samples were tested, and 19 percent of those tested originated from wild sturgeon, despite the prohibition of trade on the products in the region. Another 12 percent of samples were not in compliance with international trade regulations, with an absence of mandatory CITES labeling, or correct codes for species or country of origin.
Relating official data, 214 cases of poaching were reported in the four countries from 2016 to 2020. A wide range of causes were recorded – including having sturgeon in boats or fishing nets, possessing illegal sturgeon fishing gear, transportation of poached sturgeon, and the sale of caviar or meat of poached sturgeon.
WWF Global Sturgeon Initiative Lead Beate Striebel said the conclusions of the study are “worrying.”
“Sturgeon are already the most-endangered group of species on Earth and this alarming report details one of the gravest threats to their survival: the ongoing poaching of sturgeon in the Lower Danube and Black Sea regions to meet the demand for illegal wild caviar and meat,” Striebel said.
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