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Tuesday, 5 June, 2001, 00:27 GMT 01:27 UK
Sturgeon poachers netted
Caviar for sale - at a price
A kilo of the finest caviar can fetch about $3,000
By the BBC's Patricia Golding

Officials in the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan say more than 1,000 poachers have been caught in the annual campaign against sturgeon poaching in the Caspian Sea.

More than 90% of the world's caviar comes from the Caspian Sea, which is also bounded by Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

Kazakhstan's annual two-month campaign against the sturgeon poachers has involved the full breadth of the country's security forces.

Customs officers, the police, the army, the security service and the environmental protection agency were part of the determined effort to stamp out the illegal trade in the precious sturgeon, whose roe is one of the world's finest delicacies.

The Kazakhs say apart from the poachers, this year's haul also includes 62 tons of illegally caught sturgeon and one ton of black caviar.

Prize catch

A kilo of the finest caviar sells for approximately $3,000, yet poachers in the region are reported to sell it for as little as $20 a kilo.

Osetra caviar in the Astrakhan market
Sturgeon's roe - one of the world's finest delicacies
The sturgeon poached in Kazakhstan this year amounts to almost two thirds of the quota which Kazakhstan produces officially each year.

Apart from the economic value of the fish, Kazakhstan, like the other countries bordering the Caspian, is fighting to save the fish from extinction.

The female sturgeon takes up to 25 years to reach sexual maturity, when it starts producing the valuable eggs.

Poachers have no qualms about taking immature females.

Yet whatever efforts the Kazakhs and others make against the black marketeers, the fish also face a severe environmental threat.

With Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan drilling for oil in the Caspian, pollution could contribute to the extinction of a fish which has survived for 250 million years.

See also:

10 Feb 01 | Europe
26 Jan 01 | Europe
03 Oct 00 | Europe
08 Feb 00 | Europe
25 May 00 | Europe
05 Dec 00 | UK
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