U.S. bans imports of beluga caviar to help conserve sturgeon

The U.S. — destination for 60 percent of the world’s beluga-sturgeon caviar — yesterday announced a ban on beluga imports from the Caspian Sea, where sturgeon stocks have plunged by about 90 percent in the past two decades, a casualty of pollution and unlawful harvests. Legal caviar trade is worth about $100 million a year, and illegal trade as much as five times more. The move comes because nations bordering the Caspian — Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Russia — failed to deliver requested sturgeon-conservation plans. Leading importer Armen Petrossian thinks the ban will just bolster the black market for the gourmet foodstuff, although foodies are already learning to appreciate other caviar varieties. Sea-life advocates lauded the embargo. “Time is running out for the beluga and there’s no excuse for the free-for-all in the Caspian,” said Shannon Crownover of the conservation campaign Caviar Emptor.