Scientists have unearthed startling facts on the caviar business, as reported in a study that was published in the journal Current Biology. The study concentrated on almost 150 commercial caviar and sturgeon flesh samples from Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and other countries that still have some of Europe’s last wild sturgeon populations.
The researchers found that half of the examined caviar samples were illegal, and some didn’t even qualify as caviar. Certain fish eggs contained no traces of sturgeon, categorizing them as roe rather than the coveted caviar. However, the more pressing concern lies in the legality of these products. Sturgeon, the source of authentic caviar, are critically endangered, and international regulations stipulate that only caviar from farmed sturgeon is permissible for sale. Shockingly, 21 percent of the examined caviar came from wild sturgeons, a clear violation of these regulations.
The study also revealed that 29 percent of the products violated regulations set by the Convention on International Trade In Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), misleading consumers with incorrect information about the caviar’s species and country of origin. Moreover, 32 percent were deemed outright “consumer deception,” marketed as “wild” when they actually originated from fish farms.
The researchers pointed out that the demand for these questionable caviar products, whether real, fake, or mislabeled, remains high, posing a severe threat to wild sturgeon populations. While European regulators often point fingers at foreign poaching, the study indicates that a significant portion of the problem lies within the European Union and candidate states.
To protect the future of Danube sturgeon populations, the experts stress the critical necessity for better regulation and control of the caviar and sturgeon trade in the EU and candidate member states. The study’s conclusions should serve as a warning to policymakers and environmentalists about the need to solve the ongoing issues facing the caviar industry and guarantee the survival of threatened sturgeon species.