FILE PHOTO: A man holds a sturgeon in a sturgeon breeding ponds at the French Neuvic caviar producer in Neuvic (Dordogne), France, December 27, 2017. EPA, CAROLINE BLUMBERG
Research on caviar samples from Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine showed that half of the caviar products tested were illegal, while some were not even caviar.
Wild caviar, a delicacy made from sturgeon eggs, has been illegal for decades, since poaching brought the fish to the brink of extinction. Today, legal, internationally marketable caviar can only come from farmed sturgeon, and there are strict regulations to protect the species.
There are four species of sturgeon left in Europe that can produce caviar, Beluga, Russian, Asteroid and Sterlet. The last remaining wild populations of these species in the European Union are found in the Danube River and the Black Sea.
Each species has been protected since 1998 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In 2000 their listing was accompanied by a strict, international labeling system for all caviar products to stop illegal trade.
Despite this protection, the research team notes, poaching still occurs.
A team of experts, led by Arn Ludwig from Germany’s Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, conducted genetic and isotopic analyzes on caviar samples from Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine and found evidence that these regulations are violated.
Their results, published in the journal Current Biology, show that half of the commercial caviar products investigated were illegal, with some containing no trace of sturgeon.
The researchers purchased caviar both online and in person from local markets, shops, restaurants, bars and aquaculture facilities. They also included five samples that had been seized by the authorities. In total, they collected and analyzed 149 samples of sturgeon caviar and meat.
After analyzing the DNA and isotope patterns of each sample, the research team found that 21% of the samples came from wild-caught sturgeon and that these wild-caught fish were sold in all the countries studied.
They also found that 29% of the samples violated CITES regulations and trade laws by reporting the wrong species of sturgeon or the wrong country of origin.
They categorized a further 32% of samples as “customer fraud”, where samples claimed to be wild products actually came from aquaculture. Three of the samples served in Romania as “sturgeon soup” were not actually sturgeon, but European catfish and Nile perch.
Link to scientific publication: https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(23)01316-7
With information from APE-MPE
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