----------Caviar Media

Malaysian ChineseNews Paper

13.12.2014 Cordon Noir Christmas Dinner at a Sturgeon Farm in Tanjung Malin , Malaysia

The New York Times

11th May. 2012

CHUNGJU, SOUTH KOREA When Han Sang-hun brought 200 sturgeons on a chartered plane from Russia in 1997, South Korean officials regarded the alien fish with a level of suspicion that the owner of a fish pond might reserve for an invasion of sharks. After all, the sturgeon, because of its prickly looks, is called the armored shark in Korean.


They said if any of them escaped into the rivers, they would ruin the local ecosystem, attacking and devouring other fish, Mr. Han recalled with a pained amusement. The sturgeon is a slow-swimming fish with no teeth to speak of. When he finally extricated his fish from customs, he placed them at a riverside farm in this town 90 kilometers, or 56 miles, southeast of Seoul. For the next 12 years, Mr. Han spent $1 million a year feeding and looking after a stock that grew to 50,000 sturgeons, all children of the original 200. But he got little in return until 2009, when the fish were old enough to yield caviar one of the worlds most expensive delicacies, selling for as much as $400 per ounce, or $14 a gram.


On a recent spring harvesting day, a farmhand gently massaged a sturgeons belly as Mr. Han traced a slender steel device up its egg-laying duct and popped a bulging egg sack inside. Roe poured out like so many black pearls into a bowl.

This business is not for everyone. You have to invest for 10 to 15 years with no immediate return, Mr. Han said in an interview at his farm, lamenting that 70 people who bought sturgeons from him to start their farms had all given up, asking him to buy back the fish.


For Mr. Han, the harvest was worth all the hassle, investment and waiting.

The global efforts to curtail the fishing and exporting of caviar from the Caspian Sea the historical center of sturgeon fisheries, where overfishing, pollution and poaching have depleted wild populations have squeezed supplies and driven up prices. This year, as it has several times since 2001, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or Cites, again all but banned international trade in wild caviar. The trend has created business opportunities for sturgeon farms, even in unlikely places like the United Arab Emirates and South Korea.


The shift to aquaculture and captive breeding of sturgeons in an increasing number of countries all over the world may soon make it difficult for caviar from wild sturgeon populations to find a place in the international market, Cites said in a report in March.


Mr. Han, a native of a fishing village west of Seoul and an economist by training, saw an early opportunity in the new dynamics of the worlds caviar industry when he visited the republic of Kalmykiya, then part of the Soviet Union and now part of Russia, in 1987. Then employed as a financial specialist at Texas Instruments, he encountered, for the first time, beluga the most prized sturgeon variety and began to dream of opening the first sturgeon farm in South Korea.


One of his best business decisions, he said, was to persuade his Russian contacts to sell him 200 gravid sturgeons, not fertilized eggs or fingerlings, in 1997. Not only did those fish provide fingerlings, or baby sturgeons, but also yearly opportunities for Mr. Han and his staff to experiment with developing sustainable egg-harvesting skills. This avoids killing the fish for their roe, as traditional sturgeon fishers do, but instead allows them to continue to grow in their pools and spawn again, in around two years.

Most caviar farms still sacrifice their fish, said Phaedra Doukakis-Leslie, a sturgeon expert at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. But David H.W. Morgan, the chief scientist at Cites, said farms were moving toward sustainable techniques that, given the long time sturgeons take to reach maturity, would have economic advantages as well.


Some caviar producers have tried making an incision in the fish
s belly to collect the roe in a piscine version of a Caesarean section. In recent years, fisheries biologists in countries including Iran and the United States have developed techniques similar to Mr. Hans that are less invasive and stressful. Instead of poking the fish with a screwdriver to find out whether they are ready to spawn, farms now can use a biopsy or ultrasound. Mr. Han said that after years of trial and error, his team has found a way to make that determination by feeling various parts of a fish.

It is difficult and expensive to change, said Sergei Reviakin, director of Mottra, a London caviar dealer, explaining why most farms still kill their fish for roe. Also, public opinion has not yet turned against the traditional method, he said.

Mr. Reviakin said his indoor farm in Riga, Latvia, has been practicing sustainable harvesting since 2008. There, he said, trained staff also massage the eggs out of the fish in a method he said was different from Mr. Hans but that also sometimes involved making a very small incision.

Mr. Han said he did not worry about a growing number of competitors around the world, because an insatiable appetite among the wealthy would keep demand for caviar far outpacing the supply. He has other challenges.

In the United States, for example, when they hear the word Korea, they think of Kim Jong-il, not caviar, he said. Selling caviar from Korea has been like an American chef trying to persuade Korean housewives to buy his kimchi.

After years of participating in international gourmet food exhibitions, Mr. Han said his product, marketed under the brand Almas Caviar, was finally becoming known. This year, Almas began supplying to some of the top caviar distributors in the world and laying plans to open its own stores in New York and Tokyo. It has also begun selling caviar extracts to cosmetics and pharmaceutical companies.

To meet a growing demand for farmed caviar after Citess new ban on wild caviar exports, Mr. Han planned to increase his caviar production from 3.8 tons last year to 6 tons this year, about one-third of his farms maximum capacity and about 10 percent of the legal international caviar trade that he forecasts for this year.

There are no reliable estimates on global caviar production. Cites reported that 71 tons of caviar, including 8 tons of wild origin, had been exported in 2010, the last year for which such tallies were available but the organization does not keep statistics on caviar that is domestically consumed or traded illegally. Mr. Reviakin, for one, says that about 150 tons of caviar is produced in farms annually and that at least three times more than that is sold illegally.

Mr. Hans company all but monopolizes the domestic South Korean market, where he says he hopes caviar consumption will more than double to 1.5 tons this year. Here, when the rich talk about gourmet food, they still think mainly of raw fish or the choicest cuts of beef. Mr. Han has been trying to change that, sponsoring haute caviar-and-Champagne clubs.

After 15 years of dedicating himself to his sturgeons, Mr. Han compared his farm to a factory with 50,000 workers who cant speak or form a labor union.

They grow listening to their owners footsteps, Mr. Han said, replicating the phrase Korean ginseng farmers use to describe the constant care their crops demand during the six years the roots take to grow before they are ready for harvesting.

Mr. Han, who is 56, must plan carefully for the long term. His fish must grow for 10 years before laying eggs, and they can live to be 150 years old. He plans to expand his stock fourfold to 200,000 sturgeons over the next 15 years.

In 2001, he divided his stock of 50,000 fish and moved half of it to a farm that he opened north of Seoul, hedging against the risk of his fish dying off together in an accident, like a power outage disabling temperature regulation systems.

However remote the chances are, I must also prepare for things like war, he said. Few people seem to believe a war will break out again on the Korean Peninsula. But if you look at our history, hardly a century has gone by without a war.

With such concerns in mind, he began looking for farm locations in Hokkaido in northern Japan, as well as in Maine and Wyoming in the United States, where he could expand to further reduce his risks.

The fish will live long after I am gone. I am thinking about whos going to take care of them when I am no longer here, Mr. Han said. Raising sturgeon, I have learned a lot about time, human mortality and environmental preservation.


Cordon Noirian Chef Helmut move to Kuala Lumpur






see full article at  http://www.kommersant.com/p791862/no_more_black_caviar/


Poached Caviar to Disappear from Stores and Restaurants

Amendments to the laws “About fauna” and “About fishing and

preserving aquatic biological resources” came into force on Wednesday.

According to the amendments, all poached products of sturgeon fish

species are to be eliminated. Since the industrial catching of sturgeon

has been prohibited since 2003, almost all caviar sold in stores and

restaurants before August 1st (around 200-300 metric tons in total) was

considered confiscated from poachers. This caviar is now to disappear

from sale.

Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture spread an official letter on Wednesday, signed

by the ministry’s fishing department’s deputy director Mikhail Glubokovsky,

concerning the extraction and sale of black caviar. Amendments to the laws

“About fauna” and “About fishing and preserving aquatic biological resources”

come into force on August 1, 2007. According to the amendments, all poached

products of sturgeon fish, crabs, and some other kinds of seafood are to be


So far, the products confiscated by state agencies from poachers were sold by

the state through the Federal Property Management Agency and specially

authorized companies. Distributors and retailers estimate annual sales of black

caviar in Russia at 200-300 metric tons.

Russia stopped issuing quotas for industrial catching of sturgeon fish since

2003. The annual amount of legally extracted black caviar is not over 2-3

metric tons.

Experts predict nearly complete disappearance of black caviar from stores and

restaurants, and at least a 50-percent growth of the caviar’s price by the end of

2007. Most stores and restaurants have already given up or plan to give up

selling black caviar.



December 14, 2005 / New York Times  

Lovers of Caviar, Look to the Farm

By FLORENCE FABRICANT THOSE who want a last legal taste of beluga in the United States still have time, if they have the money. For most caviar lovers, there are plenty of other options. And more than ever, they are farm-raised.

When embargoes on importing beluga took effect in September and October, most dealers said that they already had enough beluga to last through the end of the year. Beluga is the largest of three types of sturgeon legally harvested for caviar in the Caspian Sea. The other two are osetra and sevruga, both of them also the name not only of the fish but also of the caviar. There are also beluga sturgeon in the Black Sea.

Some of the beluga still available is fabulously delicious, but the prices are averaging about $200 an ounce.

At the same time, the production of caviar from farmed sturgeon is increasing, with a general improvement in quality. And the demand for it is climbing.

"This year I have already sold three times as much farmed caviar as last year," said Rod Mitchell, the owner of Browne Trading in Portland, Me., a caviar importer, distributor and retailer. "A lot of chefs are conscious of the need for conservation and insist on it, and individuals are buying it, too."

At Eli's Manhattan, Eli Zabar said this is the first year that he expects to sell a substantial amount of farmed caviar.

Shoppers will find caviar from California, France, Italy and Germany. There is also some farmed caviar from Uruguay, which was very good last year but which some dealers say is less consistent this year. Balducci's has the first caviar from Spain. Greece and China are also beginning production.

Most farms are raising two types of sturgeon for caviar: Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baerii), a close relative of the Caspian osetra, and white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus), a smaller sturgeon native to California and the Pacific Northwest.

While still far cheaper than beluga, prices for farm-raised caviars have increased at least 50 percent over last year, with an ounce routinely listed at $50 to $75. That's what good Caspian osetra was going for just a couple of years ago.

"Caviar supplies, even for farmed product, are tight, so prices are way up," said David Magnotta, the owner of Caviar Russe, an importer, distributor and retailer.

After tasting more than a dozen farmed brands, 10 of which are listed here, in general, I preferred the caviar from the Siberian sturgeon over that from the white sturgeon. I found that sometimes the white sturgeon had a slightly muddy aftertaste, which experts attribute to the habitat, the rivers or other waters in which they are raised. Most German and French sturgeon are cultivated in waterways with direct outlets to the sea, which tends to make for a cleaner-tasting product.

There is yet another kind of sturgeon, the American hackleback, from states like Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri, and the quality of its caviar has improved. At less than $30 an ounce most places, it is a caviar worth considering for use in cooking or for dabbing on canapés for a crowd. Thanks to better curing, black paddlefish roe, another American product, is almost as good as hackleback.

Shoppers should be aware that relatively inexpensive tins of caviar labeled "American sturgeon" are probably filled with hackleback or paddlefish roe.

Even the tiniest cans or jars that have been repacked from original tins must be labeled to show the type of sturgeon and country of origin. The shelf life is at least one year for an unopened, original tin of fresh caviar (2 to 4 pounds), properly stored at just below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but smaller amounts last only a few weeks.

In addition to farmed caviars, there are several options from the wild. From the Caspian Sea, Iranian caviar is consistently of high quality. Most of it is sevruga and osetra, with very little Iranian beluga available. Prices are sky-high because the Iranian government has voluntarily limited production for conservation purposes.

Be wary when buying caviar from other Caspian Sea countries. There is no fresh caviar from Russia on the market at all because the country has not had international approval to export it for the past two years.

Beluga, osetra or sevruga caviar labeled as Russian could be from Azerbaijan or possibly (but less likely) from Kazakhstan. Otherwise, it is either over the hill or a black market product, especially if it is being sold on the Internet at prices that are suspiciously low.

"I've had more beluga offered to me on the black market than ever before," said Armen Petrossian, the chairman of the Paris-based company that bears his name. "Of course they say that it's caviar that was in the country before the ban, but I know it's black market. That's why I was against the ban, because I was afraid the black market would explode. It's always that way when something is forbidden."



NATIONAL   | October 29, 2005

U.S. Broadens Ban on Caviar to Include Black Sea Basin


By extending the ban to the Black Sea basin, the Fish and Wildlife Service is in effect banning all imports of the most highly prized variety of caviar.




Britischer Generalkonsul

in Cordon Noir inthronisiert


Nach einem excellenten Diner im Hotel Schassberger Ebnisee wurden der Britische Generalkonsul Mark Twigg, Evelyn Gebhardt EU-Parlament, Prof. Dr. Claudia Hübner und Joachim Schramm in den Gourmet Club Cordon Noir aufgenommen. Die Inthronisation erfolgte nachdem die vier Anwärter im Beisein der Mitglieder Senator h.c. Prof Dr. Helmut Baur Konsul von Malaysia, Ernst-Ulrich Schassberger Executive Gourmet Deutschland  und  Siegfried Steiger Half-Professional-Gourmet an dem von Chefkoch Ernst Karl Schassberger kreierten Menü letzte Hand angelegt hatten. Tatar und Mousse vom Stör im Hühnerei mit Sevruga Caviar, Carpaccio von der Kartoffel mit Limonen Creme Fraiche, Rinderfilettatar und Ossietra Caviar, Tranche vom Bachsaibling und dessen Caviar an hausgemachter Pasta mit Zitronengrasschaum, Scheibe vom  Kalbsrücken mit gefülltem Gemüse und Kartoffelstroh an Kräuterjus, Halbgefrorenes von der Gujana Schokolade mit Mango-Passionsfrucht Coulis. Der Freundeskreis Cordon Noir setzt sich weltweit für Aufklärung bezüglich der Kaviargewinnung und gegen den Raubbau und Kaviarschmuggel ein.

Information: Hotel Schassberger

73667 Ebnisee im Schwäbischen Wald

Tel. 07184/2920


Für eventuelle Nachfragen:

Absender: Iris Schasssberger


Telefon priv.    07184/292101             Tel.gesch.:  07184/2920


    Three-month delay on caviar rules
Ian MacWilliam
BBC, Almaty

Last Updated:

Friday, 19 March, 2004, 20:02 GMT BBC News World Edition

The countries bordering the Caspian Sea have been given another three months to comply with measures to protect the beluga sturgeon.

The fish, which is an endangered species, is the source of much of the world's beluga caviar.

Wildlife protection officials meeting in Geneva said that Kazakhstan and Russia now had until June to work out a plan to conserve the fish.

They had been facing a possible ban on trading in the prized delicacy.

Environmentalists say the beluga sturgeon could be wiped out in a matter of years by overfishing.

In the past two decades, the population of beluga sturgeon has shrunk by 90% and extensive illegal fishing in the sea and in the rivers where the sturgeon spawn is continuing to reduce their numbers.

Slow progress

Under an agreement backed by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species - or CITES - Kazakhstan and Russia agreed to take measures to stop poaching and to prevent overfishing.

They say they have done so, but CITES officials meeting in Geneva have apparently concluded they have not done enough, and they have given them a further three months to show they are making progress - or to face a possible ban.

But the spring fishing season when most of this year's catch will be taken has just begun and an US environmental campaign, Caviar Emptor, says the extension will allow the catch of beluga sturgeon to go ahead unimpeded.

Kazakh fisheries officials say that sturgeon numbers are no longer in decline so a ban is unnecessary.

The US government is also considering a ban on the import of beluga caviar to protect the sturgeon.

The US imports 60% of the world's beluga supply.


1/28/2004 15:47 EST

Jacob Cortez unloads Bowfin fish from a boat after a morning of fishing in Pierre Part, La, Tuesday January 27, 2004. These bowfin will have their eggs harvested to make caviar. The small but growing American caviar industry is hoping for a boost from federal authorities, who are considering a halt to trade of the priciest caviar from the Caspian Sea. The ban would block imports of beluga caviar -- mouth-watering eggs from the Caspian's largest sturgeon, a 250 million-year-old species that has been ravaged by overfishing and pollution. (AP Photo / Chris Graythen)
1/28/2004 15:47 EST

John Burke Jr., owner of Louisiana Caviar Company holds up a Bowfin fish that will be used for caviar in Pierre Part, La, Tuesday January 27, 2004. The small but growing American caviar industry is hoping for a boost from federal authorities, who are considering a halt to trade of the priciest caviar from the Caspian Sea. The ban would block imports of beluga caviar -- mouth-watering eggs from the Caspian's largest sturgeon, a 250 million-year-old species that has been ravaged by overfishing and pollution.(AP Photo / Chris Graythen)
February 2004

Caviar Clash


If the weather's just right, Craig Gemming can drop a net in the Missouri River and return a day later to find dozens of shovelnose sturgeon tangled inside.

But he fears the day will come - perhaps soon - when he won't be able to find one no matter how many nets he drops.

Gemming, who releases the fish after he counts them, leads Missouri's effort to preserve the shovelnose and two other species of sturgeon. He's witnessed a marked increase in the commercial fishing of shovelnose over the past few years.

Conservationists say the eggs from a female shovelnose have been targeted as a replacement for caviar from a shrinking beluga sturgeon population in the Caspian Sea. Caviar from shovelnose eggs sells for hundreds of dollars per pound.

Sturgeon fishing spiked in Missouri during the 1980s, when embargoes and poor relations with the Soviet Union and Iran restricted the flow of top-notch beluga caviar from the Caspian and Black seas.

But it slowed in America after the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, clearing the way for increased fishing in the Caspian. As the numbers of sturgeon plummeted there, there was a jump in the numbers taken in Missouri.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, commercial anglers on the Mississippi River have taken an average of about 6,300 pounds of sturgeon per year between 1945 and the turn of the century. In 2000, anglers reported taking 17,500 pounds of sturgeon. The next year, it was up to 65,128 pounds.

Statistics from the Missouri River show a similar trend. After a boom in the early 1990s, sturgeon taken fell as low as 717 pounds in 1994. By 2001, more than 12,000 pounds of sturgeon were taken.

Rachel Collins, vice president of Chicago-based Collins Caviar Co., believes the numbers lie. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks two years ago, Collins says, the caviar industry has hardly been booming.

"High-end food has really struggled," she says.

She blames the increased numbers on more accurate reporting by commercial anglers, who used to dodge taxes by saying they caught less fish than were in their nets.

In the past two years, Collins says, most caviar companies have had to reorganize, merge or fold. Her company sells shovelnose sturgeon caviar in one-ounce containers for $38 or 6½-ounce containers for $160.

"It's considered premier American caviar," Collins says, adding that some caviar connoisseurs insist American caviar is inferior to imported caviar, but the quality is subject to a person's taste.

Good shovelnose caviar has a light, clean taste with a buttery or nutty finish, she says.

Few of the company's sturgeon come from Missouri because the state is known for its "extremely strict" regulations. Collins Caviar fishermen report that rivers are teeming with plenty of sturgeon.

"They're not impacting the population, which is the usual argument from government agencies," Collins says. "That's really not the case."

Conservationists say the caviar trade also poses a risk for Missouri's two other sturgeon species - the pallid and lake sturgeon.

The pallid sturgeon is on the federal government's endangered species list and the lake sturgeon is considered endangered in Missouri. The state considers the shovelnose vulnerable - at the rate it is being fished, it could easily become endangered.

The three species are differentiated easily by their snout shape and the positioning of whisker-like barbells near the fish's mouth.

Experienced anglers can tell the fish apart.

"These guys know the difference between the fish, and they don't take them because the last thing they need is to have an agent give them a surprise visit and have pallid sturgeon in their nets," Collins said.

Sturgeon are of little commercial value beyond harvesting their eggs for caviar, said Vince Travnichek of the Missouri Department of Conservation. Smoked sturgeon meat sells for about 35 cents a pound, he said.

"The money's in the caviar," Travnichek said.

David Hendrix, manager of the Neosho National Fish Hatchery in southwest Missouri, is part of the effort to breed and restock sturgeon in the Missouri River. Hendrix and his co-workers in October released 2,400 pallid sturgeon evenly between Boonville, Mo., Vermillion, S.D., and Bellevue, Neb. The hatchery is preparing for its next class of the endangered fish.

The hatchery's goal is to help remove pallid sturgeon from the endangered species list. But before that can happen, biologists must find pallid sturgeon ready to breed. Most sturgeon don't become sexually mature until they are about 15 years old.

And because caviar is made of fish eggs, only mature females are targeted. Or, as Gemming points out, the only fish taken are those ready to reproduce. That makes it even more difficult to naturally maintain the sturgeon population.

Missouri conservation officials found only six pallid sturgeon in 2001 and five last year.

Hendrix's hatchery released 1,000 pallid sturgeon nationwide last year. He hopes it will be able to raise 4,000 or more next year.

To protect the fish that are released, Gemming says conservation and wildlife agents are checking fish markets more frequently to look for endangered species hidden among legal fish. The conservation department is also requiring more thorough reporting of the kinds of fish that are being caught.

Thanks, Erich Sollboeck, for the contribution .


Ale, brass brands and... caviar? Wakefield to farm fine delicacy

By James Burleigh

06 December 2003


Wakefield is often associated with brass bands, rugby league and pints of HB Clark's Classic Blonde real ale, but it could soon become renowned for its caviar.

The West Yorkshire town is to become the caviar capital of Britain with plans to transform a 14-hectare site of wasteland in Caldervale into a fish farm that will produce high-quality caviar.

Yorkshire Water has approved the scheme after being approached by the Able Partnership Ltd, which provides work for disadvantaged people and those recovering from drug abuse. Terry Rutter, the project manager of the Able Project in Caldervale, said: "An application for planning permission is currently with Wakefield Metropolitan District Council and we are expecting to get the go ahead by the second week in January.

"As soon as we are granted planning permission, we can start the preparation of the area, including site clearance, erecting the tanks and installation of the sturgeon. We are weeks away from beginning to establish a commercial-sized fish farm on the site."

The project was launched in 1997 when the partnership started looking at reducing waste. It began by turning cardboard into horse bedding, which was eventually adapted to provide a compost used to feed worms.

The partnership is now planning to import Siberian sturgeon from France, which will feed on the worms.

In about three years some of the fish will have reached a marketable size and will be sold to restaurants and hotels. In about five years the fish will have grown to about four feet in length and weigh 22lb. At this time they will also be mature enough to produce caviar, Mr Rutter said, with each fish producing about 10 per cent of its weight in eggs.

And it could be a lucrative business; this type of caviar sells at £1 per gram.

Sturgeon are descendants of a group of fish with fossil records that date back 100 million years. The fish can grow up to 10ft and weigh more than 300lb. At the beginning of the 20th century, many sturgeon weighing 1,000lb or more were caught, but by the 1920s sturgeon of that size were no longer found.

In recent years, environmentalists have been warning that the fishing industry and poaching by the Russian Mafia have brought some species of sturgeon, including the beluga, to the brink of extinction in its last stronghold, the Caspian Sea. In 1996 the sturgeon was placed on the world's Red List of threatened species after a study of the fish was conducted by the Sturgeon Specialist Group, chaired by Dr Vadim Berstein, in the Caspian Sea and the Volga basin. The study found that the fish could be commercially extinct within three years.

But commercial fishing of the sturgeon was stopped in Russia yesterday as a senior official confirmed that the country has joined a self-imposed moratorium of Caspian states to clamp down on the illegal caviar trade.

The high cost and increasing rarity of Caspian caviar has resulted in the production of many other varieties of high-quality caviar. Sturgeon-farming projects have been started in the south of France and there are five types of American sturgeon. More than 50 young people will be employed at the Caldervale site, which will be built by community service workers. Disadvantaged young people have been involved in the project from the beginning.

Mr Rutter said: "This is a project that gives us the opportunity to provide employment and training to young people to prepare them for employment in the future. The other aspect of the project is that it will result in an environmental awareness centre for people and children in the district that will fit into the national curriculum."

Willow and hazel trees are to be planted for coppicing on a eight-hectare site and burnt as fuel for heating the water in the fish tanks. A three-kilometre trail through the woodland is also planned and the site will be able to demonstrate recycling, renewable energy, food production, nature studies, ecology and biology.

The Able project, which is a partnership between the Green Business Network, Eastern Wakefield Primary Care Trust, and Turning Point, will be funded by several grants, including one already secured from the Coalfield Regeneration Trust.


CITES authorizes 2003 caviar quotas as Caspian Sea
sturgeon stocks start to recover

Geneva, 5 September 2003 – The Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has approved quotas for Caspian Sea sturgeon catch and caviar exports in 2003.

“After a decade that saw the collapse of sturgeon stocks due to over-fishing, the governments in the Caspian Sea region are now fully committed to enforcing CITES regulations. As a result of their joint efforts to monitor and manage fish stocks and combat poaching, they are truly starting to turn the situation around,” said CITES Deputy Secretary-General Jim Armstrong.

“The international community has played a vital role by working through CITES to motivate the five partners and support them in putting this valuable commercial resource on a sustainable basis,” he said.

The approved 2003 export quotas for caviar total 146,210 kg, compared with 140,237 kg in 2002 and 153,620 kg in 2001.

The approved quotas for sturgeon catch and caviar exports are based on information submitted by the Caspian States and on the Secretariat’s missions to the region to verify survey results.

In developing the new quotas, the Caspian States paid particular attention to Beluga, which produces the most valuable caviar. Beluga stocks appear to be recovering; greater numbers of fish are spawning and a higher proportion of the fish being caught are going into hatchery production rather than into commercial caviar production.

Nevertheless, the Secretariat is pleased with the slightly lower total catch and caviar export quotas assigned for this species in 2003, which should give beluga stocks more time to build up (beluga take 11 to 17 years to mature). By sacrificing some immediate income, the region’s governments have demonstrated their commitment to making the beluga fishery sustainable over the long term.

CITES halted the caviar trade by Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation in June 2001 under the so-called Paris Agreement. It gave the four states until the end of that year to conduct a scientific survey of stocks and to start developing a common management plan. The fifth Caspian state, Iran, was not subject to the caviar ban, but, commendably, it too joined the regional effort. The CITES Secretariat published the five States’ proposal for the 2002 Caspian-wide quota in March 2002.

Because many natural spawning grounds have been destroyed, more than 90% of Caspian Sea beluga sturgeon start their lives in artificial hatcheries. Over the past two years, the Caspian States have invested heavily in expanding and refurbishing these hatcheries. They are also changing their methods to improve the survival rate of fingerlings, for example by releasing them only after they reach at least five grams in weight rather than the previous standard of three grams.

Until 1991, two countries – the USSR and Iran – virtually controlled the caviar market, investing heavily in maintaining fish stocks. This made it easy to track the source of any given shipment of caviar. With the demise of the USSR, the system collapsed, and many entrepreneurs dealing in “black gold” sprang up to the replace the state-owned companies.

The Caspian once accounted for 95% of world caviar, although this percentage is now closer to 90%. Official catch levels fell from a peak of about 30,000 tonnes in the late 1970s to less than one tenth that figure in the late 1990s. Reduced river flow, destroyed spawning sites, corruption, poaching, organized crime and illicit trade all contributed to the decline.

One result is that by the late 1990s the illegal catch in the four former Soviet Republics was estimated to be 10 or 12 times higher than the legal take. The legal caviar trade has been estimated to be worth some $100 million annually – making it perhaps the world’s most valuable wildlife resource.

Recognizing the need for action, in 1997 CITES decided to place all remaining, unlisted species of sturgeon on its Appendix II, effective from 1 April 1998. As a result, all exports of caviar and other sturgeon products must comply with strict CITES provisions, including the use of permits and specific labelling requirements. To obtain the necessary permits for export, it must be shown that trade is not detrimental to the long-term survival of the species.

Under the Paris Agreement, the Caspian States committed themselves to increasing their anti-poaching efforts and, where necessary, to changing their national legislation to improve their ability to control domestic markets and enforce their CITES obligations.

The CITES Secretariat is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Note to journalists: For more information, contact Juan-Carlos Vasquez at +41-22-8156 or
juan.vasquez@unep.ch, or Michael Williams at +41-79-409-1528 (cell), +41-22-917-8242 (office), or michael.williams@unep.ch. See also www.cites.org.

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July 10, 2003

Fish and Wildlife Service postpones beluga sturgeon ruling

WASHINGTON - In light of new research on Caspian Sea beluga sturgeon supplies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has delayed its final decision on a proposal to list the caviar-yielding species as endangered, and has re-opened the public comment period on the caviar-related proposal until Sept. 2. A final decision on the proposal will be made by Jan. 31, 2004.

In response to a petition and supporting evidence suggesting rapid depletion of Caspian beluga sturgeon supplies, the USFWS published in the Federal Register of July 31, 2002, a proposed rule (67 FR 49657) to list the species as endangered.

Recent, more comprehensive findings about the Caspian beluga sturgeon situation have prompted the delay in finalizing the proposal.

USFWS received a new document March 11 "that may have major relevance to this decision (to list beluga sturgeon as endangered)," according to a June 11 USFWS press release. The study, issued by the secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, summarizes the 2002 sturgeon stock-assessment survey for the Caspian Sea.

"The secretariat's report contains substantial information that must be considered in our deliberations and should be made available to the public," stated a June 11 press release by the USFWS. "…The current report provides new information regarding changes in beluga sturgeon feeding habits, expanded toxicological studies and increased stock abundance estimates that were extrapolated from the most recent raw data."

Copies of the report are available from USFWS upon request. Comments, information and questions should be submitted to: Chief, Division of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 750, Arlington, Va. 22203; by fax, 703-358-2276; or by e-mail,

Thanks to South China Morning Post / Sunday 18.5.2003

Thanks Erich Sollboeck for the following Orion Article.Big Thanks Orion for giving our caviar friends of the non financial Cordon Noir Gourmet Club the possibility reading your article.

Orion pls. let us know how we can help you making you very interesting Orion magazine more saleable. Maybe with a link at our Cordon Noir Web?





In less than seventy years, Soviet communism turned the breadbasket of Eurasia into a nation dependent on American wheat and grateful for foreign aid in the form of frozen chicken legs (which Russians affectionately called nogi Busha -- Bush's legs -- for George Sr., who sent them). The one food the hungry Soviet Union always supplied its capitalist enemies was a gourmet delicacy, caviar. Will that most Russian of luxuries continue to appear on Western canapé trays in the post-communist era? Maybe not.

At $40 an ounce and higher, the caviar this fisherman holds is worth more than several months' work for most Russians.  

Russian black caviar (sometimes gray, brown, or amber) comes from sturgeon that were trapped in the Caspian Sea three million years ago, when the huge lake was cut off from its connection with the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic. Some twenty-seven species of sturgeon in Europe, Asia, and North America produce the roe called caviar, but for more than two centuries culinary fashion has declared that the best caviar is Caspian, and the best Caspian caviar is from the giant beluga sturgeon, followed by the sevruga and ocetra.

When the fishing brigade pulls in its nets, they empty the catch into one of the processing plant's boats, or deliver them to the "mafia" of fish inspectors.

In one of history's ironies, the new communist regime of the 1920s created a state monopoly on the black pearls of the rich man's banquet. In the ancient Silk Road city of Astrakhan, where the Volga River breaks into a vast delta fan to meet the Caspian Sea, a government kombinat (company) commercialized the traditional preparation methods of the salty roe and became a major earner of hard currency for the new regime.
No government had ever focused so ruthlessly on material goods or been so blind to the destruction of its natural environment. During the Soviet period the twenty-three hundred miles of the Volga became a giant sewer for the more than sixty million people in its watershed. Over three thousand factories dumped more than one million cubic meters of untreated industrial wastewater into the Caspian annually.

  For the highest value caviar, fishermen stun their catch, cut open the live fish, and scoop out the thick strands of caviar.

The Caspian sturgeon are anadromous fish that depend on the waters of the Volga and Caspian. Sturgeon are also bottom feeders. Their flat stomachs hug the bottom as their hard noses stir the sediments. They are protected from prey by a triangular back covered with bony plates instead of scales. When their four barbells sense food, their toothless extendable mouths smooch forward to suck in worms, mollusks, crustaceans, and larvae. After six to twenty years in the salty Caspian, the sturgeon beat their way up the sea's many feeder rivers, where a single female might eject up to two million eggs. The giant Volga was once the breeding ground for over seventy percent of Caspian sturgeon, which ranged a thousand miles upstream. The great dam at Volgograd (once Stalingrad) ended the sturgeon migration, and the Soviets began a program of hatchery breeding.

While the Soviets overexploited their fisheries along with the rest of its natural wealth, the state-run caviar kombinats did control the sturgeon catch and brought down the wrath of government on poachers and smugglers. With the fall of communism the government companies survived, but law and order in Russia and the new countries bordering the Caspian disintegrated. The failure to replace government monopoly with an enforceable system of private fishing rights left a sturgeon population that was already stressed by pollution at the mercy of rogue fishermen, mafia poachers, and corrupt officials.

This legal fishing brigade working its assigned territory once pulled in nets sagging with fish. Now even this midsized beluga sturgeon is rare.

From the largely unemployed local population hundreds of desperately poor brakaneers launch their rowboats at night, slipping out into the maze of channels among the willows and reeds. (Unlike the English word "poacher," the Russian "brakaneer" has the connotation of an established profession.) They are joined by well-armed mafia poachers who use boats and radios to outmaneuver government inspectors, who themselves are vulnerable to corruption. Everywhere in Russia officials who have interfered with the illegal exploitation of natural resources have met violence and death. Last fall contract killers murdered a regional governor who had blocked mafia access to local fisheries.

All the Caspian nations have regulations limiting fishing and prohibiting poaching, but the high price of caviar, a long tradition of corruption, and dire poverty mean that enforcement is no match for greed and need. The Russian office of World Wildlife Fund estimates that eighty percent of the sturgeon caviar for sale in Moscow comes from black market production. Russia officially exported $25 million worth of legal caviar in 1999, but the value of poached caviar exports is thought to be ten times that amount. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated as early as 1998 that more than fifty percent of the world trade in caviar was illegal. In 2000 the U.S. government fined two importers for using forged Russian labels.

Taxidermist Vladimir Goluvachov and his son show the skin and head of a beluga tha measured more than eighteen feet long and weighed more than a ton.  

The U.S. continues to be the biggest importer of Caspian caviar, but the supply is dropping. With demand as strong as ever, prices have risen to $80 an ounce for beluga caviar, $60 for osetra, and $45 for sevruga. Of the three primary species, the highly prized beluga that produces black caviar is near extinction and the osetra is not far behind. A coalition of international conservation groups has launched a boycott of beluga caviar with the motto: "Caviar emptor: Connoisseur beware."

Market forces are beginning to take some of the pressure off the Volga delta and Caspian Sea sturgeon. Spurred by rising prices, entrepreneurs in parts of the world where property can be protected are risking the long-term investment in sturgeon farms, and good marketing is trumping the traditional prestige of Russian caviar. Joint ventures in Montana and North Dakota now produce three tons of caviar a year. Fish farmers are also learning how to milk sturgeon or remove their eggs by caesarian instead of killing them.

The future of the Volga and Caspian sturgeon, however, is far from secure. The Volga remains a giant sewer, and the once-clean Caspian will soon be dotted with oil rigs, crossed by giant submerged pipelines, and traversed by tankers as the former Soviet states prepare to supply their new allies with oil.

Photojournalist Hans Jergen Burkard works for the German magazine Stern, and is the recipient of several World Press awards. Working in Russia, he and Stern correspondent Katja Gloger have broken stories on the mafia, environmental degridation, and abuses within the military and police.

Wallace Kaufman has been writing for Orion and working in European Russia, Siberia, and Central Asia since Soviet times. This summer Wm. Morrow will publish Contrary Winds: The Russian Discovery of America, about biologist Georg Steller and Captain Vitus Bering.

Copyright 2003 The Orion Society. Reprint requests may be directed to


Japan launches caviar production as prices soar
A fish farming company said Friday it has begun producing Japan's first homegrown caviar as prices for the imported luxury soar in the world's second largest caviar market.

Sunrock, a Japanese fishery company affiliated with the local government in Kamaishi, Iwate prefecture in northern Japan, has bred 500 sturgeon in a tank at a disused steelworks and hopes the fish will produce some 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of caviar within the next few months.

"We have bred the sturgeon for seven years and it's time for them to produce eggs," said Masao Fukazawa, Sunrock's managing director.

"This is Japan's first homegrown caviar. We have already received lots of orders from hotels and trading firms. We are overwhelmed by the strong demand," Fukazawa said.

Sturgeon is one of the world's most valuable wildlife species due to the prices commanded by its roe and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has since 1997 regulated the international trade in the huge fish.

Since then, Japan's caviar imports, which mainly come from Russia, Iran and China, have dropped by 30 per cent while its price has quadrupled, Fukazawa said.

"We used to be able to buy one kilogram of caviar for less than JPY 100,000 (USD 840), but now the price can go up to as much as JPY 400,000 a kilogram," he said.

Despite the steep price rise and Japan's prolonged recession, demand here remains strong, Fukazawa said.

"High demand tells us caviar is recession-free," he said, adding one trading company in Tokyo had asked Sunrock to sell it its entire expected 300 kilograms of caviar. Sunrock plans to sell caviar later this year, but the company has yet to set the price.

"For Japanese, caviar is a status symbol. We hope to sell homegrown caviar to those who have never tasted it before at a reasonable price," he said.

China, France, Germany, the United States and Russia have already started sturgeon farming for caviar, the official said.

According to CITES, 90 per cent of the world's trade in caviar is illegal, dwarfing the estimated USD 100 million a year in legal sales worldwide. Caspian sturgeon accounts for 90 per cent of world production of black caviar.

However the legal catch of caviar has slumped from around 30,000 tonnes annually in the late 1970s to less than 3,000 tonnes now, with corruption, poaching, organised crime and illicit trade contributing much to the decline, CITES says.

Fis - 13/01/2003

Thanks to Time January 20, 2003

Thanks to Time January 20, 2003

if you can not read clearly just go to http://www.time.com/time/asia

and look in there Archives

Caviar Smuggler Gets 30 Months in Prison

Tue Feb 4, 9:03 AM ET
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MIAMI (Reuters) - A Russian man was sentenced to 30 months in prison for smuggling 98 pounds (44 kg) of caviar into the United States without the required permits, federal prosecutors said on Monday.


Mikhail Ivanovich Kovtun, 59, of Moscow, was arrested at Miami airport in August 2001 with two other passengers who had tins of sturgeon roe hidden in their suitcases. In November 2002, a federal court jury convicted him of violating the Endangered Species Act and lying on his customs declaration, which said he carried no food, wildlife products or commercial goods.

Prosecutors said Kovtun organized the trio's journey from Moscow through Zurich to Miami, arranging for them to smuggle the Russian caviar worth more than $40,000 into the United States.

Caviar is the roe of female sturgeon, a prehistoric fish species found in the Caspian and Black seas. Sturgeon have been protected since 1998 by international treaties that prohibit export of the fish or its eggs without a permit from the country of origin. Importers to the United States must also declare the caviar to customs and wildlife officials.

At a sentencing hearing on Friday U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro-Benages ordered Kovtun deported once he finishes his prison sentence.

His two companions, also Russian citizens, pleaded guilty to smuggling charges and had already received prison sentences of six and seven months.

With the sturgeon population dwindling and legal exports limited, customs inspectors have seen a rise in the black market trade of sturgeon roe. In Miami alone, Kovtun was the ninth person in two years sentenced to prison for smuggling caviar.

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