highly endangered sturgeons of the Danube river basin are at risk
because of the persistent illegal trade in their caviar involving
Bulgaria and Romania, according to a newly published TRAFFIC report
compiled for WWF.
The two countries hold the only viable
populations of wild sturgeons in the European Union (EU), but five of
the six native sturgeon species in the Danube are critically
endangered and sturgeon fishing there has been banned.
to the new report, a total of 14 seizures of illegal caviar
originating from Bulgaria (27.5 kg in five seizures) and Romania (25
kg in nine seizures) were reported by EU Member States between 2000
and 2009. Neither Bulgaria nor Romania reported illegal caviar
of the Report
is of concern that Bulgaria and Romania reported no seizures of
caviar, while other EU Member States registered several seizures
where those two countries were implicated. The detected quantities
are not very high, but we must bear in mind that the real volume of
illegal trade is likely to be considerably higher and any illegal
trade poses an unacceptable risk to these highly threatened species,”
said Kecse-Nagy. In 2007, both Romania and Bulgaria joined the
EU, meaning any illegal trade was within the Union, and therefore
harder to detect and prevent. This case demonstrates how permitted
caviar farming was exploited to launder illegally sourced caviar into
legal trade. This means it is more vital than ever to regulate
closely the caviar trade within the region to ensure illicit trade is
not posing a threat to wild sturgeons.”
In addition, due
to their geographical position, the two countries are potential
gateways for illicit caviar trade from the Caspian Sea, the most
important sturgeon fishery in the world.
In 2009 German
authorities seized caviar smuggled into the EU and labeled as
Bulgarian farmed caviar. Bulgaria and Romania are only permitted to
trade in farmed-caviar, but isotope analysis demonstrated the caviar
had originated from the Caspian Sea.
Analysis of legal
trade data indicates a large increase in aquaculture production in
Bulgaria for export, including within the EU.
TRAFFIC report recommends both Romania and Bulgaria raise awareness
among enforcement agencies of the illegal caviar trade and strengthen
their capacity to control and monitor the trade.
EU has a major responsibility to regulate the caviar trade because EU
member states are the largest consumer of caviar from Romania and the
second largest consumer of caviar from Bulgaria. The EU must close
every loophole in order to save sturgeons from extinction. It is
crucial that traders and consumers do not buy unlabelled caviar -
this simple act would strike a major blow against the illegal trade.”
according to Jahrl, consumer awareness in Europe about the threat
posed by illegal caviar trade is low, while even genuine traders know
little about the requirements for labelling legal caviar.
ILLEGAL CAVIAR TRADE POSES MAJOR THREAT TO DANUBE STURGEONS --WATERWAYS NEWS - 15 NOVEMBER 2011
report, Trade in Sturgeon Caviar in Bulgaria and Romania, was funded
by The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, DBU
Bundesstiftung Umwelt) and WWF