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Kazakhstan to introduce state monopoly on caviar sales

The lower house of the Kazakh parliament has approved in its first reading a bill to introduce a state monopoly on caviar production and sales, the parliamentary press service said on Wednesday.

The move comes as part of an effort to combat the declining sturgeon population in the Caspian Sea, which has dwindled almost forty-fold in the last 15 years due to rampant poaching in the region. Kazakhstan catches nearly 185 metric tons of sturgeon annually.

The republic's interior ministry brought charges in over 300 cases of poaching last year and seized over 10 tons of illegally-caught sturgeon.

"This [the state monopoly] is a common practice in many caviar-producing countries: we will be able to protect our bio-diversity and it will bring a great deal of funds to the budget," the country's agriculture minister said, adding that the introduction of a state monopoly would help to tackle poaching.

The bill will come into force after being approved in its second reading, then considered by the upper house of parliament and signed by the country's president.

The Caspian Sea sturgeon, caught in five coastal states (Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran) accounts for almost 90% of the world's caviar industry. According to the Russian experts, it will take at least 10 years to restore the sturgeon population in Russia.

In August 2007, Russia's Agriculture Ministry called for imposing a state monopoly on valuable black caviar exports. The ban would also be imposed on sales of sturgeon caviar at markets. The bill is expected to be submitted to the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, later this year.

In Iran, the preparation and marketing of caviar is a state monopoly, handled through the Finance Ministry's Iranian Fishing Company. Azerbaijan has no state monopoly, and any individual or legal entity can be authorized to catch sturgeon.

RIA Novosti



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