U.N. lifts year-old ban on Caspian Sea beluga caviar exports

The world’s got a fever, and the only prescription is more caviar. In a two-part move, the U.N. has lifted a year-old ban on the delicacy, allowing Caspian Sea countries to profit despite concern about declining sturgeon populations. Yesterday, the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species announced an agreement on the waaay overfished beluga that will see Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan cut exports 29 percent from 2005 levels. The countries will also “release millions of young fish into the sea,” according to Willem Wijnstekers, who heads up CITES. Wijnstekers hopes consumers will control their urges in order to keep beluga battering in check, but fish fans say his agency’s action belies his concern. Julia Roberson of Caviar Emptor says beluga stocks in the Caspian plummeted 45 percent from 2004 to 2005: “The whole purpose of CITES is to allow trade only if there is a nondetrimental finding, and this screams to me it’s detrimental to the fish.”