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Iran to release 20 million sturgeon into Caspian to save caviar (1997)

Reprint from 30 June 1997, Agence France-Presse, AFPR, English, (Copyright 1997)

TEHRAN, June 30 (AFP) – Iran is to release 20 million sturgeon fry into the Caspian Sea this year in a bid to
boost its sinking caviar production, newspapers reported Monday.

Rassul Lahidjanian, director of the national fishing company, said the figure was eight million sturgeon higher
than last year.

Iran’s caviar production has been falling steadily in the past few years because of growing pollution and
overfishing in the Caspian, the world’s biggest caviar-producing region.

Iran’s annual caviar output reached 160 tonnes in the early 1990s but it can now only produce 130 tonnes of
the expensive delicacy a year.

The Islamic republic has banned fishing with closely-woven nets for two years in a bid to protect sturgeon
which are too young to produce eggs. But it has had little success in clamping down on illegal fishing.
Iranian caviar, considered the best in the world, is produced in the coastal areas of Ghilan and Mazandaran in
the north of the country.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) decided in June to restrict the trade
of 23 species of sturgeon and their eggs in a bid to stamp out a booming trade in illegally harvested caviar.
Until 1991, sturgeon fishing and caviar production in the Caspian Sea were strictly controlled by Iran and the
former Soviet Union.

But the break-up of the Soviet Union led to the creation of three new countries bordering on the Caspian
which began fishing sturgeon without the usual controls.

The Caspian, which produces up to 90 percent of the world’s caviar, is surrounded by Iran, Russia,
Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.