WWF urges buyers to seek out ‘legal’ caviar

Published on
April 21, 2015

Seafood buyers attending Seafood Expo Global (SEG) in Brussels this week will be reminded of the importance of sourcing caviar that bears the compulsory labeling for legal product.

The World Wildlife Fund wants to show expo attendees how to distinguish legal from illegal caviar through the mandatory labeling for all caviar imposed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

This labeling is particularly important for the survival of sturgeons, said the conservation organization.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), sturgeons are more critically endangered than any other group of species worldwide — mostly due to overfishing and the illegal caviar trade. Europe’s last viable wild populations are in the Danube River section shared by Romania and Bulgaria.

All sturgeon species have been protected by CITES since 1998. This requires that sturgeons and their products in international trade must be accompanied by CITES documents and all caviar must bear CITES labels with a CITES code.

However, according to the report, “Illegal caviar trade in Bulgaria and Romania,” compiled by WWF and Traffic, the CITES labeling rules are not being fully respected. Correct labels are often missing or indicate contents different from the actual ones.

Furthermore, it claimed Romania and Bulgaria are still fishing for wild sturgeon despite the fact that a complete fishing ban is still in place in the countries until the end of 2015. The ban also forbids the sale of products, like meat and caviar, from wild-caught Danube sturgeons.

CITES-compliant aquaculture products provide an alternative for consumers who want to enjoy sturgeon meat products or caviar, while sturgeon farms can have a positive effect on the evolution of wild sturgeon stocks, as well as on local economies, said WWF.

At Seafood Expo Global, WWF will also talk to companies about WWF’s Smart Fishing Initiative, which covers species besides sturgeon. The team will present a new vessel tracking tool and data sharing platform that can be used by fisheries worldwide to make their fishing transparent. It will also provide information on the EU regulation on unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), as well as the traceability of seafood products and measures to improve the management of commercially important fish.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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