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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 June, 2003, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Anti-poaching squads tackle caviar crisis
Police unload confiscated sturgeon
Police officers have come from Moscow to help in Dagestan

The authorities in the Russian Republic of Dagestan have resorted to tough measures to try to curb the poaching of sturgeon, an endangered species important to the economy for the production of caviar.

According to Russian TV, they have drafted in a special police squad from Moscow's Interior Ministry for the duration of the spawning season to combat gangs of poachers preying on the fish as they head upriver to spawn.

In Dagestan's Kizlyar District alone, up to 50 gangs go out poaching every day, the channel says. They are well-organised and well-equipped, even bringing industrial refrigerators in to hold their catch.

Poachers
The poachers are surprised

Ilyas Shurpayev, a reporter from Russian NTV Mir, accompanied the police squad on a raid.

The first rule, he learnt, was that secrecy was paramount.

"It's important to prevent information leaks about the planned operations." Ali Nurmagomedov, a prosecutor in the Dagestani capital Makhachkala told the TV.

By midday, the well-armed squad with the element of surprise in their favour had taken their first prisoners and confiscated their boats.

But news about the special operation had begun to spread around the district and local criminals began to arrive at the temporary police station, hoping to strike a deal.

Member of anti-poaching squad
The policemen are well-armed

They were trying to secure the release, by money or by threats, of the poachers themselves or at least of the boats.

By the end of the day, the special operation had netted about 90 confiscated sturgeon and five detained poachers.

Since mid-May, the Moscow detachment has confiscated around 6.5 tonnes of sturgeon, 10 boats and 12 engines which are banned in Kizlyar's nature-conservation zone.

But for the future survival of the sturgeon, the efforts of the anti-poaching squad may well be only a drop in the ocean.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




SEE ALSO:
The sturgeon poachers' secret world
02 Dec 02  |  Science/Nature
Farmed sturgeon 'only hope for caviar'
02 Dec 02  |  Science/Nature
Beluga caviar faces US ban
14 Aug 02  |  Americas
Caspian caviar ban lifted
06 Mar 02  |  Europe
Caspian sturgeon stocks plummet
15 Jan 02  |  Europe


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