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Cut Out Caviar to Save the Sturgeon - Russia's Ivanov

Date: 24-Sep-07
Country: RUSSIA
Author: Guy Faulconbridge

Ivanov, widely regarded as a leading contender to succeed
President Vladimir Putin in 2008, said he could do without
caviar if sturgeon fishing was banned.

"If we banned catches for a period of time then I would
certainly survive," Ivanov told an investment conference in
Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi, RIA news agency reported.

Ivanov, 54, said black and red caviar, and crab meat was not
an essential part of an everyday diet and he could do without
his caviar "ration" for five to seven years.

"We would repair our national wealth in this time after we
so rapaciously annihilated it," Ivanov said.

Most of the world's sturgeon spawn in the rivers that flow
into the Caspian Sea. Their unfertilised eggs -- caviar -- are
sold by Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Russia.

Overfishing, poaching, pollution and poor management have
cut sturgeon stocks in the Caspian. Experts say beluga is on the
verge of extinction after fish numbers fell by 90 percent over
the past 20 years.

High prices for caviar have made the sturgeon a target for
criminal groups who control poaching gangs and illegal caviar
sales in Russia and abroad.

Beluga caviar, a symbol of ostentatious dining and luxury,
costs about US$1,400 a kg in Moscow markets but sells for 3,700
pounds (US$7,400) a kg in London.

Russian agriculture officials have pressed Putin to declare
a state monopoly on the export of black caviar from Russia and
to restrict its sale inside Russia to licensed outlets.

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