CITES visits Iranian sturgeon aquaculture facilities

Geneva, 30 June 2014 –  The Iran Fisheries Organization (IFO), in its capacity as the CITES Management Authority for Acipenseriformes, under the Ministry of Jihad-e-Agriculture of the Islamic Republic of Iran recently invited the CITES Secretariat to visit to learn about developments in sturgeon aquaculture in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

David Morgan, CITES Secretariat in discussion with Mohammad Pourkazemi,  President of the Iranian Fish Research Organization, Mehdi Shakouri, Iranian CITES Management Authority for Aciperseriformes, Mahmoud Bahmani, Director,International Sturgeon Research Institute and colleagues.

During the visit, Mr. David Morgan, Chief of the Scientific Services Team in the CITES Secretariat met with representatives of the Iranian Fish Research Organization, the CITES Management Authority for Aciperseriformes, and the International Sturgeon Research Institute. 

The Islamic Republic of Iran has in recent years made substantial investments in infrastructure and developed significant technical expertise in sturgeon aquaculture and is producing cultured caviar to meet domestic and export requirements, generate jobs and earn hard currency revenues as well as producing young fish for restocking in the Caspian Sea.

The CITES Secretariat warmly welcomed the opportunity to witness first-hand the significant progress made in sturgeon aquaculture in the Islamic Republic of Iran and to discuss opportunities to replenish wild stocks.

At the forthcoming meeting of the CITES Standing Committee (Geneva, 7-11 July 2014), the Committee will consider the possible impacts on wild populations of the increasing global trend towards producing caviar in aquaculture facilities, including in range States, and potential illegal, unreported and unregulated activities.

Background:

All of the Caspian Sea's species of sturgeon have been seriously affected by over-fishing, the results of which have been exacerbated by a loss and degradation of habitat. Construction of dams, reservoirs, channels or water abstraction for agriculture have resulted in the physical obstruction of migration routes and the alteration of spawning grounds. 
 
Sturgeons are among the most valuable aquatic species in the world and six (Huso huso, Acipenser gueldenstaedtii, A. persicus A. stellatus, A. nudiventris and A. ruthenus) of the 27 sturgeon species are found in the Caspian Sea and its drainage basin. Sturgeons are one of the world's oldest fish families and are thought to have been around for 250 million years, and have been caught for centuries for their flesh and eggs, which when processed and salted and marketed as caviar, are the world’s most expensive delicacy. 
 
When the serious decline of sturgeon stocks became evident a decision was taken at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP10, Harare, 1997) to regulate the international trade in sturgeons and sturgeon products. This was an important step to ensure long-term conservation and better management of the species - and essential to preserve the resource for future generations. Since 1998, international trade in all species of sturgeons has been regulated under CITES owing to concerns over the impact of unsustainable harvesting of and illegal trade in sturgeon populations in the wild. 
 
The Conference of the Parties has subsequently adopted a number of measures relating to the conservation of and trade in sturgeons and paddlefishes, which, inter alia, urge range States and Parties to encourage scientific research to promote the sustainability of sturgeon fisheries, to curtail illegal fishing and exports and to promote regional agreements between range States to bring about proper management and sustainable utilization of sturgeon.